Submission by Ross Martinie Eiler
I am a Christian Anarchist. I have been for fifteen years. As a founding member of the Bloomington Christian Radical Catholic Worker Community, my faith has been instrumental in arriving at a revolutionary criticism of modern capitalism, and my politics have been instrumental in developing my religious beliefs. I want to share some particular gifts that Christianity can bring to anarchist thought and practice.
These gifts are gifts of emphasis; these elements can be found both in people of different religious traditions and in people with no religious traditions at all. But they have a distinctiveness within the Christians tradition, and they can enrich secular political radicals. I share these reflections not to convert anyone to Christianity or to get folks to join the Catholic Worker, but rather to encourage reflection and dialogue on these ideas and also to build awareness and comradeship between my Catholic Worker community and Plain Words readers.
But first things first. I am painfully aware that people who claim to be Christian have perpetrated some of the most oppressive evils and reprehensible crimes against humanity in the history of the world. Many of the most dangerous people alive today claim the mantle of Christianity. The majority of Christians either stood aside or cheered developments such as slavery, the crusades, colonialism and nuclear weapons. Those facts are indisputable, and the hypocrisy and failure of professed Christians is a profound challenge to the entire religion.
However, there are also other facts to consider. Jesus of Nazareth was a brown-skinned Hebrew rebel, nailed to a Roman cross as a threat to the empire. Jesus of Nazareth went to his death challenging unjust state power. Jesus proclaimed a new Kingdom, one that opposed the powers of his day, a Kingdom that privileged the poor and outcast while condemning the rich. He invited his followers to “take up your cross and follow me,” inviting them to a life of communalism, peace and confrontation with empire and its enablers. These facts offer a continual reminder that the white, blond-haired, blue-eyed, gun-toting, woman-hating Jesus of the religious right is a god of their own making. And that “god” is one I have no interest in defending.
So what am I defending, then? I want to discuss six characteristics emphasized in Christian Anarchism that are beautiful, good and true: sharing, selflessness, reconciliation, hope, tradition and love. A fine definition of “anarchism” I once read in Plain Words suggested that anarchism demands “we sow the seeds of a new humanity now.” These six virtues, I propose, are good seeds; and we who are trying to forge new societies should cultivate them.
To provide practical examples, I will also touch briefly how these seeds are (imperfectly) lived out in our Christian Radical Catholic Worker community. I’ll say more below, but the Bloomington Catholic Worker is a community gathered together to imitate Jesus’s nonviolence, voluntary poverty and radical hospitality. We are committed to caring for children, homeless people and the earth. We have no connection to the Roman Catholic Church or any other church institution.
It is reported that the first Christians rejected private ownership of any possession but instead held everything in common. Those who had wealth sold their possessions and distributed the proceeds to whomever had need. This tradition of communities in which people work according to their ability and receive according to their need has been unbroken for 2000 years, continuing through counter-cultural Christian communities. And it reminds us that the first work of culture-building is taking care of one another.
The Amish call this duty of sharing “mutual aid.” It is the recognition that you exist in a wider community and are responsible for it, whether you asked for it or not. The virtue of sharing also reminds us that our work needs to be intergenerational. We cannot be radicals if we are not hospitable to children and to old people. There will never be a revolution if the only people who can participate are single, able-bodied 16–to-36-year-olds.
At the Bloomington Catholic Worker, we talk about “personalism:” that we are bound to take personal responsibility for the people around us at a personal sacrifice. We commit to caring for our homeless sisters and brothers, for our own children and our neighbors’ children, even if it means we have less time, money, or energy for ourselves or things we want. To take sharing seriously, then, we also have to cultivate selflessness.
Capitalism is dependent on selfishness. Indeed, the profit motive is nothing other than a monetized form of self-concern. We daily swim through a morass of propaganda and advertising telling us to be selfish and to pursue our own self-interest. One of the traditional “seven deadly sins” is Avarice, also known as “greed” or “desire for wealth;” and yet Capitalism lies by elevating greed to a virtue rather than the vice it is.
Because selfishness is so deeply ingrained in our culture, it is exceedingly difficult (and counter-cultural) to uproot. This is one place where spiritual roots and traditions can be valuable. Reflecting on God can help us cultivate selflessness. A friend once told me that the heart of all religious traditions can be summarized as “Get Over Yourself.” Christian Anarchism reminds us that the individual self, while good, is not the object of ultimate concern.
At the Bloomington Catholic Worker, one way we try to cultivate selflessness is commitment to Voluntary Poverty: we pledge to serve God rather than money, success or stability. By accepting less than we want, we learn to place a higher value on sharing and we learn to give up our own wishes in order to better serve one another.
Everyone who hangs around in radical or community circles learns a very difficult lesson: even if our politics are good, even if we’re badass, even if we all like the same music, we are all of us nevertheless still broken and damaged people. (If you haven’t learned it yet experientially, hang around for a while… you will.) We gather as comrades to escape the senseless cruelty of imperialist capitalism, and then we turn around and act senselessly cruel to one another. If a community is going to be truly life-giving, if it is going to be sustainable for a new future, then it has to create spaces that accept our own failures and hurts. It has to be an instrument of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a pretty unnatural concept, and yet it is essential for any group of people who will truly and intimately live together and bear one another’s burdens.
At the Catholic Worker, we have a weekly ritual of reconciliation. We sit together quietly, we encourage one another, we confess if we’ve made mistakes or hurt one another, and we share grievances if there is conflict between or within people. We try not to leave the circle until everyone is in right relationship with each other. Because there is no joy or love in one another without forgiveness.
One persistent enemy of all those who work for justice is despair. The powers and forces of oppression are so great, and our resistance is so small. The planet is unlikely to survive long enough for even the most short-term revolutionary timeline. The game is rigged on the side of the rich and we can’t change the rules.
And yet the message of Easter is “Do not be afraid.” An affirmation of Christian hope is that Love Wins; as Dr. King said, “The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.” We should not despair but have hope, hope that nothing, not even death, will defeat the cause of the just. What can stand against us?
At the Catholic Worker, we try to express hope by continuing to work and engage in direct action against war, knowing that we are merely sowing seeds. We continue in protest and hospitality not because we expect them to yield results, but because we are part of something greater. We also have babies, which reminds us that God has not given up on people. We also like to sing a lot.
If we are marching toward a new society, it helps to have a sense where we are going. Moving toward an utterly unknown destination is not only disorienting, but more importantly it allows our own prejudices and flaws to sabotage the journey. It is good, then, to remember we are not the first humans to strive for justice, nor are we the first people to try and love-in-action. Heroic and inspiring people have come in every generation before us, and we can use their lives and examples as signposts to discern the path before us.
This is not to discount the serious flaws of previous (and current) generations. Consider Francis of Assisi, Harriet Tubman, Oscar Romero, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. Martin Luther King: there’s not an anarchist among them, and yet we still have much we can learn from these forerunners. Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, once wrote “Tradition is the democracy of the dead,” meaning that we will be severely impoverished if we limit our pool of wisdom to only those who are still breathing.
Our community has a “saint wall,” with pictures and stories of flawed yet profound examples of well-lived lives: folks like Basil the Blessed, the Buddha, Eugene V. Debs, John Donne and Therese of Liseux. It reminds us that we don’t have to figure it all out ourselves, but can receive the torch from others before we pass it along.
At the Catholic Worker, we “hope and work for a new society brought about by the revolution of the heart.” We hope to be the vanguard of a revolution of values, declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism by continually welcoming the poor and homeless into our midst, affirming the sacred value of all human beings, and by nonviolently resisting the works of war. This must be no weak and sentimental love; but Love as an empowering force that actualizes the saving choice of life and good against the damning forces of evil and death, Love as the supreme unifying principle of life. Anger and hate are completely justified in this world of capitalist oppression; and yet anger and hate are self-defeating. We must love another, love our children, love our friends, love our planet, love our neighbors and, yes, even work to love our enemies.
This is not about dictating to oppressed people how they should respond to their oppression or encouraging victims to love their victimizer; no one should do that. But we must also not be ashamed to recognize that communities and nations built upon hatred, fear or violence inevitably spawn greater hatred and violence; while communities and societies truly organized around the principle of love create beauty and human flourishing. Whoever does not love abides in death, and so we must love in truth and action.
Love, Tradition, Hope, Reconciliation, Selflessness, Sharing: these are indispensable nutrients for planting a new society. If we want a world without police, we need to build communities where people know how to get along. If we want a world without corporate power and upscale condos, we need communities that are content with sharing and simplicity. If we want a world without national anthems or borders, we need to build communities rooted in something deeper than patriotism. We need deep reserves of power to fight the masters of postindustrial capital. We can find deep wells of that power in religious traditions and in Christianity, and we should take it. We all have so much to learn, one from another.
Ross E Martinie Eiler can be reached at email@example.comTags: bloomingtonchristian anarchismCatholic Worker Movementcategory: Essays
by Adam Carter, via The CBC
The City of Hamilton has forced a local anarchist group to remove the circle A anarchy symbol from its headquarters, saying it is "hate material" similar to the swastika.
City officials say they're taking direction from Hamilton police on the issue, but police say that's not the case.
Whatever its origins, the move is a "very controversial interpretation of hate speech," said Margaret Kohn, a professor of political science and expert in urban social justice issues at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus.
"This seems like a constitutional lawsuit waiting to happen," she said.
Generally, Kohn said, for a symbol to be considered hate speech, it has to somehow target an identifiable group.
"That seems to not be the case with the anarchist symbol," she said.
The issue arose back in early March, after a masked mob that dubbed itself "The Ungovernables" caused $100,000 in damage during a vandalism spree on Locke Street.
Days later, The Tower — the city's local anarchist social centre at Cannon Street East near Victoria Avenue North — was also vandalized.
Most anarchy groups in the past have been seen as anti-racist or anti-hate. They are pro-people and anti-government.- Princewill Ogban, head of Hamilton's new anti-racism centre
The building's front window was smashed, and afterward, The Tower covered it up with plywood that was painted with the circle A anarchy symbol.
City spokesperson Marie Fitzpatrick told CBC News that on March 16, the city started a bylaw investigation into the symbol being displayed on the wood covering the windows.
"The anarchist symbol is considered hate material by the City of Hamilton and Hamilton Police Services and as such, must be removed," Fitzpatrick said in an email.Not a hate crime, police say
The city then issued a property standards order to remove it. Fitzpatrick said the building's tenant confirmed they got the order, which was "complied with" on March 26.
The Tower did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Fitzpatrick told CBC News that the Hamilton police hate crime unit provides the city with a list of hate symbols — but Const. Jerome Stewart said police do not classify the anarchy symbol as problematic.
A rioter paints an anarchy symbol on a Wells Fargo bank during a protest against former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley, Calif. on Feb. 1, 2017.
"It does not meet the threshold of a hate crime," he said. "To the best of our knowledge, it is classified as an extreme left sign.
"So I don't know where the direction came that Hamilton police have identified it as a hate crime sign, because as per our hate crime co-ordinator, that is not the case."
Fitzpatrick could not immediately explain the discrepancy.
Princewill Ogban, the head of Hamilton's new anti-racism centre, told CBC News he's never really heard of the anarchy symbol being classified as hate material. He did point to one instance in California where a specific anarchist group was linked to white nationalism, but said that group was essentially an outlier.
"Most anarchy groups in the past have been seen as anti-racist or anti-hate," he said. "They are pro-people and anti-government."Symbol's origins are complicated
Kohn said it's difficult to link the symbol to any specific message, as anarchy can refer to "diverse, multiple groups with different aspirations."
"The anarchist symbol has a complicated and diffuse set of attachments," she said.
According to Infoshop.org — an online project run by a collective of anarchists, anti-authoritarians and socialists — the origins of the circle A aren't completely clear.
In March, some 30 individuals dressed in black clothing with their faces covered walked through the streets of Hamilton carrying a banner that said, 'We Are The Ungovernables,' according to police.
The symbol is linked to the punk rock movement of the 1970s, but the group says its usage goes back much further, pointing to research that shows it was used by a group called Jeunesse Libertaire in 1964, and was spotted on the helmet of an anarchist militia member in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
The earliest known origins of the symbol link back to the works of philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in the 1800s, with the letter A, which represents anarchy, written with the letter O, which represents order.
"Today the circled-A is one of the most successful images in the whole field of political symbolizing," the group says.canadahamiltonThe TowerMSMcategory: International
LISTEN HERE: http://archive.org/details/AnarchyRadio05152018
A fun and stimulating hour with friend and vivid anarchist Rotn.Tags: anarchy radiopodcastRotnjzKarlcategory: Projects
A Blow-by-Blow Report from May Day 2018 in Paris
In Paris, on May Day 2018, nearly 15,000 people joined a confrontational march rejecting capitalism and the state, including a black bloc of 1200 people. Intense clashes immediately broke out with the police. This is the story of the events leading up to May Day, what we experienced that afternoon in Paris, and what comes next.
Tension has been building in France for years now, from the street confrontations of 2016 against the Loi Travail to the defense of la ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Here, we offer firsthand reports from the events of May 1, 2018 in Paris and discuss the aftermath of this day in order to participate in the critical analyses that have emerged within our radical circles for several days now.
To hear reports from other May Day actions worldwide, listen to the May Day 2018 roundup episode of our podcast, the Hotwire. To learn more about the origins of May Day, read “The incomplete, true, authentic and wonderful history of May Day” here, or read our timeline charting its legacy.
Fire on the streets of Paris.
May Day is observed as International Workers’ Day in France, as it is in many other countries. For more than a century, workers, trade unionists, traditional leftists, and anarchists have demonstrated together or separately to pay tribute to the struggles of the late 19th century and the introduction of the eight-hour workday.
Yet May Day has never been limited to legal demonstrations. On May 1, 1891, in Fourmies, soldiers shot at striking workers, killing nine people—including four under the age of 18—and injuring 35 more. Afterwards, a crowd took the streets of Clichy brandishing a red flag. At the end of the demonstration, police attempted to seize the revolutionary emblem, provoking a riot. Gunshots echoed in the streets and some policemen were injured. Three anarchists were arrested and detained. Tried in August 1891, the defendants were sentenced to up to 5 years in prison. These events awoke the convictions of many future radicals, including the notorious anarchist François Koënigstein, better known by his nickname, Ravachol.
In France, May Day also has other connotations. In 1941, aiming to force a rupture with socialism, Marshal Pétain—fervent anti-Semite, head of the French government during the occupation, and among those chiefly responsible for state collaboration with the Nazis—passed legislation declaring that May Day would be called la Fête du Travail et de la Concorde Sociale (“the day of labor and social harmony”). Since then, Labor Day in France continues to bear the name “Fête du Travail,” paying tribute to Pétain’s maxim ”Travail, Famille, Patrie” (“Work, Family, Fatherland”).
During the 1950s and 1960s, Labor Day disappeared in France. During the war in Indochina (1946-1954) and the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), successive French governments seeking to preserve their colonial holdings instituted a State of Emergency (1955-1958-1961). The state used this “exceptional” law granting special powers to the executive branch to forbid demonstrations of all kinds in France. It was only on May 1, 1968 that people in France were once again able to take the streets to celebrate Labor Day.
More recently, in 2016 and 2017, anarchists and other autonomous rebels succeeded in taking the front of the afternoon May Day demonstration, relegating trade unions and political parties to the end of the procession. By adopting an offensive strategy—attacking every single potential target on our route—we brought new life to the demonstration, interrupting the ritual it had become.
As we approached May Day 2018, we faced a new challenge. Once again, we had to rewrite the story.
For a world without hierarchy or oppression.
Barricades open up space in hopes that other relations may arise, other affects circulate.
“We are the birds of the coming storm.” –August Spies
This year, May Day took place in the context of France celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the uprising of May 1968. This event had a massive impact on the collective imagination—not only in France, but also worldwide, as evidenced by the slogans, artwork, and images of rioters throwing cobblestones it summons to mind. The so-called “revolution of 1968” saw massive demonstrations, general strikes, wildcat strikes, and occupations of universities and factories throughout France. Initiated by Parisian students, the revolt spread to working class milieux and then to many other demographics. What began as a local struggle became a national upheaval. According to historians, May 1968 represented a new form of cultural and social movement that emerged outside of traditional parties and trade unions. This movement challenged consumer society by critiquing its ideology of productivity and profit, but it also questioned the authoritarian political model of the time and put the notions of individuality and personal subjectivity at the center of the struggle.
From traditional leftist activists to career politicians and reactionaries of all stripes, everyone has something to say about May ’68. The struggles of May 1968 became yet another component of the society of the spectacle. Since the beginning of 2018, the French government, politicians of every party, the corporate media, and the Ministry of Cultural affairs have all been commemorating this long-past social and cultural upheaval that supposedly marked a turning point in French history. The museum exhibitions serve to fix the possibility of revolutionary change in a long-concluded past, but they are not even the worst part. For example, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a former student activist who became the self-proclaimed heir of the revolution of May ’68, took up a career in journalism and politics and finally came to support President Macron and his neoliberal policies. We can appreciate the irony of the situation and the hypocrisy of the French government as it actively strives to suppress any contemporary form of experimentation—see, for example, the recent evictions at la ZAD and of several occupied universities.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leading figure of the student movement of May 1968, embracing President Emmanuel Macron.
In response to this political farce, some radicals published a call announcing that “instead of commemorating May 1968, we could try organizing a beautiful month of May 2018.” You can read translations of this call here. The authors invited people to converge in Paris in order to dethrone the myth of May 1968 and precipitate the fall of Macron and his government. This can only be understood in the context of the social, economic, and political situation in France today. As some have argued, the growing anger against President Macron and his reforms could become a serious threat for the government. For months now, railroad workers, airplane company employees, civil servants, students, professors, postal employees, hospital employees, and many others have been out on strike or protesting government policies. If all of these groups joined forces against the authorities, the impact would be considerable.
Two days before May Day, the Police Prefecture of Paris published a press statement in which Michel Delpuech, the Police Commissioner, announced that he would receive the trade union leaders and other organizers of the demonstration to warn them about the potential for public disorder that threatened the smooth functioning of the march. Amid typical redundant gibberish, the communiqué stated that:
“During the traditional May Day demonstration, activists of protest groups belonging to extremist movements are planning to violently attack law enforcement and capitalist symbols. […] Thus, in the continuity of May 1, 2017, and accentuated by the 50-year anniversary of the events of May ’68, activists want to take advantage of this demonstration to engage in multiple attacks and destruction against street furniture, banks, real estate or insurance agencies, car dealerships… and violently attack police forces. It appears that incendiary devices could be used.”
In view of this threat, the Prefecture deployed some 1500 policemen and gendarmes in order to insure order during the march. Regarding the risks of violence, the communiqué added that:
Under the order of the public prosecutor, numerous checks and searches will be implemented upstream and on the outskirts of the demonstration, as well as at nearby public transport access points.
A particular vigilance and attention will be brought to the detection of all objects considered to be potential weapons.
Any individual breaking the law will be subject to immediate arrest in anticipation of a judicial procedure.
Video-protection in real-time will be used to identify individuals trying to blend in the crowd in order to commit acts of violence.
Any material item will be collected for the purposes of judicial exploitation [sic].”
With such statements, the authorities sought to set the tone for May Day in advance. Anyone who wished to do anything to express discontent beyond marching passively would face uncompromising repression. The Police Prefecture of Paris also sought to increase its control over the May Day demonstration by imposing a shorter route than usual. Instead of the classic route linking Place de la République to Place de la Nation, the 2018 march was only authorized a two-mile walk between Place de la Bastille and Place d’Italie, a route that seemed to offer fewer potential targets for rioters. It was obvious that authorities hoped to lead us into a trap.
In response, some radicals of the “cortège de tête” (“the leading procession”) published their own communiqué on May Day morning. Regarding the threats and injunctions made against them, they answered:
“We, members of the leading procession, announce for May 1 that we are going on renewable strike concerning the role assigned to us by authorities in the demonstration. We are making the call to retaliate by invading the Latin Quarter as soon as the demonstration has been dissolved.”
Joking aside, many of us were determined to break the spell of May ’68 once and for all by invading the streets of Paris for May Day and letting our dreams, inventiveness, and rage speak for themselves.
Prepared to attack.
“Fuck May ’68, fight now!” –Unknown
On May Day morning, as is customary, several small morning gatherings occurred before the classic massive demonstration in the afternoon. That morning, no fewer than five different actions were planned. Around 10 am, traditional unions and organizations (including the CGT, FO, FSU, Solidaires, and UNEF) gathered at the Père Lachaise cemetery in front of the “Mur des Fédérés”—the wall where many of the last participants in the Paris Commune were executed. (Although the Communards died fighting as revolutionaries, they have been dead long enough that these legalistic organizations can risk keeping company with them.) At 10:30 am, a morning demonstration took place in Saint-Denis, a northern suburban city. At 11 am, after leaving their own traditional morning procession, some people gathered in downtown Paris in memory of Brahim Bouarram, a 29-year-old man killed on May 1, 1995 by supporters of the French National Front after they left the National Front May Day morning procession. At noon, as usual, the traditional annual anarcho-syndicalist march left Place des Fêtes to walk to the departure point of the afternoon procession. Finally, around 1 pm, people were supposed to meet at Place de la Bastille for a lively gathering to support the ZAD.
In view of the threats of the authorities, we decided to play it safe and joined the anarcho-syndicalist march to get a sense of the situation in the field. Once we reached Place des Fêtes, some of us decided to redecorate the police station with personal messages and posters about the Haymarket affair and the origins of May Day. As more and more people arrived, it was already apparent that a lot of autonomists, anarchists, and other radicals had decided to join the morning festivities before the afternoon march. Throughout the crowd, we could hear people speaking in French, Italian, German, and English. International call or not, some comrades had decided to visit France and spend May Day in Paris with us.
The morning march finally started. Everything went smoothly; trade unionists and families walked alongside autonomists and newer generations of anarchists while police remained almost invisible the entire time. Some of us took this opportunity to take action: banks and insurance companies saw their front windows smashed and colorful messages appeared on the walls. As we were approaching Place de la Bastille, the departure point of the afternoon procession, tension and apprehension were palpable. Would the police actually stop and search everyone attempting to join the May Day demonstration? Not at all! As the anarchist procession passed a group of policemen in plainclothes (members of the anti-criminality brigade, the BAC) and insulted them, we reached the Place de la Bastille. We had entered the belly of the beast without a hitch!
The diversity of the leading procession.
When we arrived, the Place de la Bastille was packed. Thousands of people already thronged the streets, making their way through the numerous food trucks, traditional organizations, political stands, and balloons. As in 2017, we decided to leave traditional organizations behind us and hurried to catch up with the front of the procession. Along the bassin de l’Arsenal, hidden by the blossoming trees, the colorful crowd progressively changed color. Waves of black appeared among the leading procession. Once everyone was properly changed and equipped, we all moved forward to reach the first lines of the march, already located on the Austerlitz bridge. Once on the bridge, we realized that we would not be at the front of this May Day demonstration, as another crowd of activists was already walking ahead of us.
The beginning of the demonstration was quite strange. While we waited on the bridge, a line of journalists separated us from the front of the procession. All the corporate media outlets wanted to have their own footage of the impressive bloc that was occupying the bridge. For long minutes, we remained completely static; several smoke bombs and torches were lit and the banners at the front formed a perfect line. To us, this entire situation was unproductive and somehow narcissistic, as it seemed that part of the bloc was completely at ease with having their pictures taken by photographers. We felt that they were actively participating in the political spectacle of May Day by playing their role and posing so the media could broadcast their sensational images. In the end, when people were tired of waiting, fireworks and large firecrackers were thrown at journalists to push them back. After several unsuccessful attempts, the bloc charged them and thus finally managed to cross the bridge.
The front of the march.
Once we reached the other riverbank, we found police forces and water cannons waiting on both sides. This created confusion in our ranks. For several more minutes, no one knew what to do or what we were waiting for. Would police forces try to split the procession and carry out an enormous mass arrest before the march even started? While the bloc paused again, indecisive about what to do next, the journalists recreated their line in front of us, taking more shots of the famous “black bloc” while preventing us from reaching the other group of demonstrators ahead of us.
Then things began to accelerate. Someone climbed a post and started to smash a city camera with a rock. As the journalists continued filming us unrelentingly, we were finally compelled to respond by smashing or spray painting every single camera in our path. It was time to put out the eyes of the state; in such a situation, rather than being neutral tools, cameras are connected directly to the apparatus of repression. Then the first advertisement billboards were smashed, along with some bus shelters. It seemed that we had finally found our pace.
We entered the boulevard de l’Hôpital, passing the Jardin des Plantes (a large public park) and the rue Buffon, where additional police units were already blocking the street, until we reached a McDonald’s. The storm broke. Activists took out all the front windows of the fast food restaurant while others enthusiastically decorated the walls. As the windows fell to the ground, others entered the restaurant, destroying and looting everything inside. At the end, someone threw a Molotov cocktail inside. Other activists extinguished the flames, as inhabitants living in flats above the restaurant started appearing at their windows.
Police protecting the ruins of McDonald’s.
From this point on, nearly every window display was smashed and every wall spray-painted. The march continued thus, destroying everything in its path, until it reached two car dealerships. Again, some activists ran to the front windows and shattered them. Others entered the premises of one car dealership, wrecking everything inside. Finally, they pulled two cars out onto the sidewalk and set them on fire.
On the other side of the street, not far past the Austerlitz train station, several activists were breaking down the barriers around a construction site. Behind the fencing, they found an excavator. This, too, was set on fire. As the flames consumed the machine, someone took the time to spray-paint “ZAD everywhere” on it. Whatever happens at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the ZAD will survive! Perhaps not in its current form—as the process of normalization seems to leave fewer and fewer breaches open for experimentation—but its spirit continues to inspire us in other struggles, as this tribute action demonstrates.
At this point, we looked ahead and saw that we couldn’t go any further: police forces were waiting with anti-riot fences and water cannon trucks. They were blocking the route of the demonstration, probably to prevent us from reaching the district police station located a little further ahead on our right. At the same time, confrontations with police broke out at the construction site near the train station. It seemed that police were located inside or near the station, behind additional fences. Law enforcement units answered our projectiles with showers of tear gas canisters, which created a great degree of confusion. As reported by lundimatin:
“Then, we witnessed the most absurd scenes of the day. Dozens of activists in black threw hundreds of stones over the fences at an enemy that was completely out of reach. Others threw stones at a machine in flame, others at a McDonald’s that would no longer cause any harm to anyone. Actions that showed that the static but overwhelming and ubiquitous police presence was about to win, that is to say, to diffuse powerlessness. There was certainly a lot of will and determination during these events, but it ended being compressed in a restricted space where in reality frustration and fear prevailed.”
An improvised rampart.
Police advancing on our position.
Little by little, the police trap was closing. While we were distracted by the confrontations near the construction site, the police lines blocking the boulevard ahead of us took the opportunity to move forward with their water cannon trucks, then filled the streets with tear gas. Our only option was to retreat. We were pushed back near the ruins of the McDonald’s. There, we were blocked between the thick clouds of tear gas, the closed fences of the park, and a disoriented and panicking crowd. Facing the jets of water cannons and uninterrupted showers of tear gas canisters, some of us tried to resist with Molotov cocktails and stones, but without any real success. As the intensity of confrontations escalated, people began to escape by climbing over the fences of the public park. Eventually, realizing that the increasing panic could lead to a potential tragedy, firemen decided to open the gates of the park. A breach was opened, and some of us took this opportunity to exit the confrontations. Shortly after, police units fanned out to attempt to arrest people inside the park.
Those who stayed on the boulevard de l’Hôpital continued retreating as the water cannons were now in full use. They ended up crossing the bridge we had departed from and then tried to start several actions by taking other routes. Some joined the march of the CGT, others went back to the bassin de l’Arsenal in order to bypass police lines and harass them. For the occasion, a huge barricade was built to slow the police while others were attacking another car dealership and several stores. Then, as police reinforcements arrived, activists dispersed into the nearby streets, only to gather again a bit further away to begin another spontaneous demonstration. Several Autolibs—electric car sharing vehicles owned by the Bolloré industrial group—were set on fire during the action. Later, the Place de la Bastille was occupied by police, who repeatedly tried to surround people in order to carry out additional arrests, while other small groups of activists were blocked in a nearby boulevard by other law enforcement units. The authorities cleared the entire square of any potential activists.
Confrontations near the train station.
Police slowed by barricading.
Police carrying out arrests.
Once the afternoon demonstration was definitely over, people began to converge around a bar located at Place de la Contrescarpe, in the Latin Quarter, the same district where most of the confrontations of May 1968 had taken place half a century earlier. The main objective of this event was to gather people from different political horizons in order to meet, debate, and create new connections. Unfortunately, police forces were already on site when the first groups of people showed up at the square. As more and more people arrived, police left the square so people could occupy it, but not without stopping and controlling some groups that wanted to join the gathering. Clashes erupted, with police repeatedly beating and pepper-spraying the crowd. The rest of the night witnessed an ongoing cat-and-mouse game between activists and police forces, involving several reoccupations of the Place de la Contrescarpe.
During these events, several spontaneous demonstrations took place. In one case, activists succeeded in escaping police units by entering an already occupied building of the EHESS, the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences. Fascists and neo-Nazis armed with gulf clubs were patrolling the Latin Quarter at the same time. They assaulted several activists who were on their way to the gathering, injuring at least one individual.After the Storm
May Day 2018 was a special day on several different levels. First, fully 14,500 people joined the non-affiliated march, demonstrating behind or alongside a black bloc of 1200. These are the figures provided by authorities. That means that about half the people who attended the May Day demonstration decided to abandon the traditional political marches. We saw the first signs of this in 2016. It reveals a deep change in terms of political traditions. It seems that more and more people are searching for something more in their activism while losing faith in trade unions and political parties. We are glad to see that this is continuing to spread. To illustrate this phenomenon, here is a translated extract of a personal account written after May Day 2018. The authors explain why they decided to join the leading procession despite their “non-violent” moral stand:
“[…] We recognize that we might have come to the head of the procession because we are attracted by the smell of powder, with the feeling that ‘this is where things happen.’ All this precisely because elsewhere, there is not much going on. The rest of the march is nothing but a deadly boredom, both politically and philosophically. The trade union processions are saturated with trucks, sound systems, a technical power that crushes all life and reduces demonstrations to, at best, a nice walk, at worst, a funeral march. These regulated parades do not disturb anyone and always end with the ritual discussions about figures. The human reduced to numbers: beautiful result!”
The great number of radicals present during May Day—the largest black bloc constituted in Paris so far—along with the intensity of the attacks (31 stores attacked and 16 cars damaged) and our mobility and determination not to be separated from the rest of the leading procession: together, these created difficulties for the authorities. Because the police decided to avoid direct confrontations with demonstrators in favor of maintaining a security perimeter from a distance, they were not able to contain us or track all of our movements once we had no option other than to retreat. Because of the chaotic situation, the Police Prefecture of Paris, with the agreement of trade union leaders, decided to simply cancel the May Day procession. A surprising decision, when we bear in mind that beforehand, the Prefecture had discussed an alternative route with trade union leaders in case violence occurred during the march. It is always instructive to see the masks of trade union leaders fall, revealing how superficial their convictions are.
Later that night, authorities, politicians, trade union leaders, journalists, and “specialists” of all kinds continued to argue over the events of the day and the tactics used by police against the black bloc. Journalists and politicians are still having a great deal of trouble understanding that the “black bloc” is not a specific entity but a street tactic; the black bloc was blamed not only for the cancellation of the May Day procession, but also for all the evils of our modern world. As usual, the same old patronizing discourse distinguishing “good demonstrators” from “violent thugs” returned to center stage in these debates. What irony, to see self-proclaimed leaders celebrating May 1968 one day, then denouncing demonstrators the next day on account of some of the same confrontational tactics.
Due to intensifying polemics regarding the tactics used by law enforcement during the afternoon, the Prefect of Paris had to improvise a press conference to explain why the police did not simply charge the crowd to put a stop to the vandalism. The Prefect explained that the results of the day were extremely positive in that, despite the property damage, only one policeman had been lightly injured and the police had carried out numerous arrests. On our side, we don’t know how many people were injured during the confrontations.
The real T-rex in Paris.
The trap the authorities had set for May Day 2018 ended up being more effective than we expected: afterwards, we learned that over 250 people had been arrested during the day. That night, the authorities announced that more than 100 had been taken into custody, and that the first court appearances were already scheduled for the end of the week.
On Thursday, May 3, six individuals went to court; all of them refused immediate appearance. Their trials will be held at the end of May and in mid-June. In the meantime, two friends were put in pre-trial custody and three under judicial control. On May 4, seven individuals were indicted, two were convoked later, and thirteen just received reminders of the law. Three defendants accepted immediate appearances: two were discharged, and the last one received a 1000-euro fine for carrying a smoke bomb and spray-paint cans. The others will be tried later. Two more people were put in pre-trial custody and others under judicial control. We send our love and support to everyone arrested on May Day—not only in Paris, but everywhere. For those seeking more details about the several days of hearings concerning the events of May Day in Paris, we recommend this report by the Parisian legal team.
Beneath the paving stones…
Even if this massive wave of arrests ends up being simply a symbolic gesture orchestrated by the government and the Police Prefecture of Paris, the number of individuals held in custody shows their determination to increase repression towards anyone suspected of belonging to the leading procession—even simply on account of clothes, accessories, or medical supplies. By spreading fear of being arrested for “participating in a group formed in order to commit vandalism or violence,” the authorities aim to discourage demonstrators from the practices of the leading procession, and to compel everyone else to dissociate from us. History will show whether we can avoid this trap.Reflections
The storm of May Day 2018 is over. It’s time for us to reflect on the events of that day, the strategies and decisions on the field, and some attitudes and postures within the leading procession that, in our eyes, are becoming problematic. Many personal essays and reflections have already appeared online on the subject, indicating that everyone feels there is room for improvement.
The mercenaries of the state.
A burning barricade.
As anarchists, we are all aware of the risks that new technologies can involve. It is no surprise that our phones and computers can be tapped and that our favorite websites and social media platforms are monitored by the authorities. This is why, for strategic reasons, we believe that we should minimize our dependence on social media and new technologies in general. How many times has online information—statements, posts, pictures, friendships, events—been used against us in court to add more charges to our cases? We need to be more cautious with these tools in order to protect others and ourselves. As younger generations of activists are joining us for actions like those of May Day, we have to find ways to pass on proper security practices to new participants before they get themselves into trouble.
A Facebook event entitled “May Day 2018: A Day in Hell” and a call for a “revolutionary, determined, and fighting procession” were posted online before the eyes of the world. Our point here is not to attack the authors of this call, but to consider the use of social media as a platform to announce actions. What is the goal of advertising such an event online? Publicity, certainly. It is true that we need to announce events in order to draw people to them who are not already involved in our circles, but perhaps there could be a way to do this that would not also forewarn the authorities as to the character of our plans. When we do so, it enables them to prepare strategies for media narrative and repression in advance. Of course, the authorities already suspected that we intended to join the traditional procession and unleash hell, as we did in the past; but we should not make it easy for them to predict where and how we will strike, nor to identify the most confrontational elements. Regarding such press statements from our side, they may sometimes be necessary, but we should avoid publicity stunts of all kinds, and we also have to consider what the process is by which it is determined which actions are announced and how. These announcements can make things possible, but they can also make things impossible. One of the greatest structural challenges of organizing in the 21st century is how to resist the dictatorship of those who have the most media access.
Because we openly announced our intention to carry out a frontal assault, the authorities had plenty of time to prepare a trap for us. They used this call to warn trade union leaders and to stir up the tensions that exist between them and some individuals in the leading procession. We should take care not to use rhetoric or publicity strategies that will leave us more isolated and vulnerable in the end. There is no doubt that the government is increasing its pressure on us, and an approach that works once may not work so well the next time. Michel Delpuech, the Police Commissioner of Paris, reported that the police and government officials were generally pleased with the results of the law enforcement strategy they used on May Day, and that they already knew in advance what our main targets were: the train station and the district police station.
All this raises a lot of questions regarding our discretion, our capacity of staying under the radar while getting organized until the day of the action, and also our capacity of remaining unpredictable. We should not depend on social media to communicate among ourselves, and we should be intentional in determining which information we share in different venues. There have to be other safer ways to reach out to others—especially newer generations—without having to rely on social media or voluntarily drawing attention to ourselves before an action. For us, the solution lies deeper underground, in our informal assemblies, gatherings, meetings, and parties, where real human interactions and affinities can flourish. It is there, and through meeting new people in the streets or during actions, that we can develop and extend new informal connections and solidarity while escaping as much as possible from the constantly increasing state surveillance.
The battlefield is not an image, but a terrain.
Another concerning issue is that since its first appearance in 2016, the head of the leading procession—the “black bloc”—is becoming more and more ritualized, at the risk of becoming a caricature of itself. When at first, groups of students, anarchists, autonomists, and other radicals decided to take the head of the demonstration at the expense of trade unions, it was to open up new horizons for activism in France. This strategy worked: new forms of action and solidarity emerged as people decided to secede from the trade union processions. The leading procession became an uncontrollable body for which diversity, mobility, and spontaneity were the watchwords.
Two years later, the situation has changed. Of course, we are happy to see that the leading procession still exists and keeps attracting more and more people. Nevertheless, when we decide to take part in an action, everything follows a familiar pattern: we join the demonstration, we reach the front of the procession, we change our clothes for anonymity, we create a bloc at the head of the leading procession, we pose with our banners and smoke bombs for photographers, we march, we shout the same slogans, we attack some targets, we confront police forces, we escape and disband. Once again, we have reached a plateau, and we find ourselves fulfilling a role in an orchestrated spectacle. What used to be an unpredictable spark, a way of outflanking specific demonstrations, is now becoming an expected form of action. In ritualizing our strategies, we end up integrating them into others’ expectations and facilitating the task of the police at the same time. We have to create a new momentum in our actions. Only our creativity and originality can add new subversive, spontaneous, and chaotic elements to the “black bloc” strategy.
As a starting point, we could start by refusing the cult of images, an integral part of the “society of spectacle.” It seems that there is a lot of work to be done in this regard among the monochrome bloc of the leading procession. For us, it is clear that images of all kinds are nothing more than invisible chains that tie us to the narcissistic and materialistic aspects of the prevailing order. We should not be imitating popular images of struggle; we should seek to interrupt a way of living based on emulating images. While the autonomous bloc was waiting on the Austerlitz bridge, we witnessed a strange scene in which dozens of photographers captured footage of the autonomous procession, while some of us proudly posed with banners and smoke bombs. It took the crowd a long time to show the first signs of irritation against journalists, even though they repeatedly blocked our path.
Regardless of the intentions of journalists, their profession endangers us. They record us before, during, and after actions; often, they are positioned between us and our targets, or our comrades, or the police. Their presence can distract us from other important objectives, obstruct our movements, and incriminate us afterwards if police utilize their footage for investigations. After May Day, discussing this subject with comrades, we all agreed that some of the newer generations in the leading procession probably decided to join us only because they saw images online of the confrontations during the movement against the Loi Travail. Unfortunately, the power of images is a double-edged sword: on one side, it can make people choose to join us, but on the other side, they might remain fascinated by this warrior posture and the production of spectacular images.
As the government tries to intensify control and repression, we have to be especially careful regarding the presence of cameras during actions. Once, the only cameras we had to be worried about were police or city cameras. Today, they are everywhere. But this should not make us accept them as inevitable: we need to keep journalists and cameras out of our procession, without any exceptions. What is more important, the dissemination of images flattering our egos, or making it possible to act freely during demonstrations?
For more information about the issue of cameras in our radical processions, you can read the zine “Dialogue imaginaire avec un-e défenseur-euse de l’image photographique d’individus.”
Trying to open up a space of possibility.
Consumer politics in action.
Rather than taking for granted the simplistic dichotomy of “victory” versus “defeat,” we would like to discuss several points that could be improved for future actions. Some decisions taken on May Day raise questions that we must confront if we want to move forward.
First, when we passed the Austerlitz bridge to enter the boulevard de l’Hôpital, we all realized that police forces were waiting for us on both side of the procession. This clearly made us uneasy for some time. Then, when we finally decided to move forward and reached the McDonald’s, we realized again that police forces we blocking the nearby street rue Buffon. In our view, as soon as we ravaged the McDonald’s, we were already within the trap of police forces, as anti-riot fences and water cannon trucks were blocking us from progressing further. In other words, starting at that specific moment, we had no options except to retreat via the park, to return across the bridge we had just crossed, or to endure the police attacks. Next time, we need to be more aware of our surroundings, to anticipate the movements of law enforcement, and to think ahead of time about possible escape routes in order to avoid the moments of panic that we saw on May Day. We are fortunate to be able to say that we succeeded—for the most part—in escaping and outflanking the massive police presence, at least for a moment. But we could certainly do better.
We also should revisit individual decisions, such as the choice to throw a Molotov cocktail inside the McDonald’s when people were living above the restaurant, or to set cars on fire on the sidewalk so that flames threatened the apartments above them. The point is not to criticize the use of Molotov cocktails, but to consider when and where to use them. We should never risk collateral victims because of our decisions. Let’s avoid another tragedy like the one that took place in Greece several years ago in the Marfin bank fire. A tragedy like that would affect all of us on several different levels.
Improvised munitions seized by police.
Kicking back the tear gas.
Also, we need to take better care of each other during actions. On May Day 2018, many people were not equipped to endure the showers of tear gas. Many people experienced panic attacks or respiratory issues while caught in a middle of a large confused crowd. We saw at least one person with a head injury receiving medical attention from firemen. It is obvious that we need to bring more medical supplies with us to these actions.
Finally, let us recall that solidarity is one of our greatest assets. Today, about 50 arrestees await trial. Several gatherings took place in front of the police stations in which individuals were incarcerated. These actions need to intensify, and not only because friends known to us personally are detained. Solidarity is for everyone, friends or not. One idea for future actions could be to find new tactics to protect each other from being arrested, or to respond to arrests.
We have to strategize in order to avoid containment.
It is now apparent that the autonomous procession, in all its diversity, needs to use creativity to break out of the current stalemate. To accomplish this, we need to free ourselves from the defeatist rhetoric that tends to crop up in our discussions, to accept criticism, and to abandon the ritualized framework of the leading procession. We need to become unpredictable again.
Regarding the argument currently circulating to the effect that we should join forces once more with trade unions, we have some reservations. Let’s not forget that trade union leaders are the ones who negotiate with every successive government to determine the length of the chains with which we are all bound. We don’t need longer chains, but to be rid of chains once and for all! And what about the trade union service personnel who attacked students and radicals on several occasions during the demonstrations of 2016?
Let’s make it clear that we don’t want to join forces with trade unions—with an authoritarian and hierarchical political apparatus. Rather, we want to create connections with everyone—unionized or not—who is disillusioned with the presiding political hierarchies. We can form these connections during blockades, in spontaneous actions, or in the leading processions.
Here are some closing thoughts that we could discuss in hopes of opening new breaches in our struggles:
First, why not take law enforcement by surprise during major events like May Day? Instead of converging for the afternoon demonstration as we usually do, we could desert the demonstration. As police units would be positioned along the official route, we could seize this opportunity to carry out actions everywhere else, outside the official route of the demonstration. Certainly, such action requires a lot of preparation and organization. The goal would be that every single affinity group that would otherwise have constituted the head of the leading procession should attack a specific target, all at the same time. It might not work, of course—calls for “autonomous actions” often fall flat, and this strategy (branded as “Plan B” for the 2007 G8 summit in Germany) has failed before. People usually need to experience a certain amount of concentration to gain the morale necessary to take transformative action. But if we could decentralize our efforts, we could outmaneuver the police and draw more people into the confrontations.
Another solution could be to dissolve the autonomous bloc at the head of the leading procession, as the latter is now becoming too predictable and somehow too slow. In doing so, we might be able to use to our advantage the fact that the majority of the crowd in the leading procession supports our actions, so as to move through the crowd like free electrons, attacking one target after another. If they had to control the entirety of the leading procession, police forces would constantly being harassed or overtaken by events. As mentioned earlier, traditional trade unions are still eroding, and more people are joining the leading procession; therefore, we can expect more and more people on our side. Strategically, it would be a nightmare for law enforcement. How would they carry out arrests amidst thousands of uncooperative individuals? If they sought to divide the procession, they would risk being surrounded by demonstrators as they were on May Day 2016; if they charged the crowd, it would be a public image nightmare for the government. The Police Commissioner of Paris made it clear that the current strategy of the police is to avoid direct confrontations; if this continues, it means that sending undercover officers into the crowd to arrest specific individuals is not an option. Our mobility and agility would be a precious asset. Finally, distributing the confrontational black bloc throughout the rest of the leading procession would dissolve the dividing lines of identity, creating confusion for the authorities as to who to target and opening up the possibility that people who had not previously expected it of themselves might cross the threshold into action.
One thing is certain: the present situation cannot continue. As the authors of an article entitled “Ce sera tout?” (“That will be all?”) put it:
“The self-satisfied ‘leading procession’ has now been instituted as a norm of superficial radicalism to the detriment of inventiveness, effervescence, and riotous joy, thus removing all its subversive significance and opposing the savage and uncontrollable aspects that no longer find a place to express themselves within it.”
It is vital to consider every single criticism made of the leading procession, in order to find solutions to escape from this dangerous stalemate. We need to rethink everything and begin acting according to a different logic.
All of that being said, the events of that afternoon continue to fill our hearts with warmth, joy, and passion. Count on us to continue smashing every single symbol of the prevailing order until we reach its very foundations.
This is a short list of French-language texts about May Day 2018 in Paris. You can find a more complete collection here.
“Zadists of all countries, unite!”
“Risks of public disorder.”
“Macron fills us with black rage.”
“Get out of the pack and bite the master.”
“Act like a primitive, plan like a strategist.”
Long-running anarchist publication from Philadelphia, PA, Anathema, announces a new issue.
Volume 4 Issue 5 (PDF for printing 11 x 17)
Volume 4 Issue 5 (PDF for reading 8.5 x 11)
In this issue:
May Day Communiques
Update On The Economy
Decadence And Risk
Technological Progress & The Modern World
What Went Down
Freedom For J20 Defendants: Call To Action
Keep My Name Out Your Mouth
Cedar Hopperton, the lone person charged in connection with an anarchist march and flurry of property damage on Locke Street in March, has been granted bail.
Hopperton has been in custody since their arrest in early April.
Hopperton is charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and must abide by several bail conditions, including staying out of Hamilton, not participating in any rallies or demonstrations, and living at Hopperton's parent's home in Toronto.
The decision by Superior Court Justice Harrison Arrell reverses the original bail decision made by Justice of the Peace Barbara Waugh to keep them in custody following the arrest.
Hopperton appeared in court Monday wearing a navy coloured-cardigan, black skirt and dark tights.
The 31-year-old waved and smiled at more than a dozen supporters who filled three rows of the courtroom at John Sopinka Courthouse.
Defence lawyer Craig Bottomley, said his client is "relieved" to be out of the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre.
"I'm just happy they're out. We would have accepted any conditions that didn't have my client sitting in jail for months and months and months," he said after the judge had made his decision.
"They are very relieved. They're happy to be back at home with their parents and we look forward to moving on to the next stages of the case where we can take a look at the allegations and challenge them."
Some supporters cheered when the judge announced his decision. Hopperton turned to the group and waved both hands with a big smile.
Bottomley called the conspiracy charge against his client is an "amorphous" one, and said there's no allegation that his client was actually on Locke Street when the incident took place.
"All the Crown needs to prove a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more parties to affect a criminal act," he said. "The question will be whether handing out a flyer for a march means you're responsible for every act of destruction that happens."
Bottomley also told CBC News that it's still just an allegation that Hopperton handed out any posters.
Hopperton will be back in court on May 28.mainstream mediaanarchists facing repressioncategory: Prisoners
Insurgent greetings from behind enemy lines in so-called California (Amerikan occupied Chumash territory)!
First and foremost, a clenched fist salute to my imprisoned anarchist comrades in the U.S. and around the world!
It’s been 28 years since I was first incarcerated in 1990 for armed robbery. So, to give everyone a quick update on my personal history… I first entered the California prison system when it was racially segregated, and quickly became politicized after coming into contact with anarchists and abolitionists during the 1991 Folsom Prison Food Strike, for which I was sent to solitary confinement on “inciting” charges. As a young prison rebel in the early 1990s, I experienced the brutality and torture of solitary confinement first-hand, from beatings to gladiator fights to food deprivation and murders covered up by the corrupt pigs. I was defiant and resisted these inhumane conditions by single-handedly sabotaging and breaking 13 prison cell windows in the Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) at Folsom. In retaliation for the beatings and torture I suffered, I attacked a pig and received 16 years added to my sentence! Subsequently, I was charged with possession of a weapon by a prisoner, battery on a state prosecutor during an attempted escape from the Sacramento courthouse, and assault with a deadly weapon on a prison warden, for which I was given multiple 25-year-to-life sentences. All of these events occurred more than 20 years ago, and I spent more than a decade in Pelican Bay SHU.
Now, in 2018, I have a new appeal under California’s Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 which was “granted review” and is pending in the California Supreme Court. My attorney, Cheryl Anderson, says she expects me to be given a new hearing to determine if I will receive a sentence reduction and early parole date! The recent parole granted to long-time political prisoner Herman Bell gives me hope!
I’ve also recently filed an Application for Commutation of Sentence to California Governor Jerry Brown. The recent commutations of Chelsea Manning’s sentence and Oscar Lopez Rivera also give me hope for that!
I’m currently being reevaluated for sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) under California guidelines implemented as a result of lawsuits by trans prisoners Michelle Norsworthy and Shiloh Quine, seeking transgender healthcare.
I’m very grateful to my support team comrades for setting up a website and organizing an online legal fundraiser on my behalf to pay a legal consulting fee of $3000 to National Legal Professional Associates (NLPA). I appreciate all of the support and solidarity I’ve received, with special shoutouts and thanks to S—, N—, R—,S—, and I—.
I’m involved directly with Maine Anti Racist Action and Bloomington Anarchist Black Cross in bringing together a new anarchist prisoner initiative to build and strengthen our support networks, communications, and collective struggle. A fund and a paper are in the works to amplify the voices of imprisoned anarchist comrades in the U.S. specifically, and toward the concept of an anarchist prisoner conference in North America. We’ve reached out to Marius Mason, Michael Kimble, Eric King, Sean Swain, and Jeremy Hammond, among others, and I’m hopeful that we have a general consensus of the need for a new combative position toward anarchist insurgency, as expressed by our Greek comrades’ international call for Black December.
With that said, I want to express my heartfelt love and solidarity to our dear compañera Tamara Sol! Keep your head up sister! We want our freedom now and all prisons demolished immediately! ¡A la calle!
Solidarity to Antifascists!
Solidarity to Prison Rebels!
Love and Rage!
JenniferTags: jennifer gannjune 11thlong term prisoner supportcategory: Essays
Solidarity with Anarchists in Yogyakarta, Indonesia from Narrm / Melbourne ( so-called Australia ) Anarchists
Solidarity with Anarchists in Yogyakarta, Indonesia from Narrm / Melbourne ( so-called Australia ) Anarchists.
Banner reads 'Solidarity with Yogja Comrades
May Day Setiap Hari ( May Day Every Day )'
On May Day in Yogyakarta 69 comrades were arrested. There has since been a huge crackdown involving raids and more arrests based on flimsy evidence. At present there are 11 comrades still locked up in Yogyakarta Police Prison, they are isolated and not allowed any contact with comrades outside.
This has only strengthened the resolve of the comrades to keep up the fight against the feudal system ruling Yogja and the Kraton (palace) of the so called sultan.
There is a fundraising drive to raise money for legal assistance which has been largely local however there is a paypal account here for donations outside Indonsia. https://www.paypal.me/TobiVBonanoTags: anarchists in troubleanarchist prisonersInternational SolidarityIndonesiaAustraliacategory: International
via Freedom News
The first reports are coming in from the Foundational Congress for a New International — an effort to draw together some of the biggest syndicalist unions worldwide.
Update, May 13th: The new name for the international is reportedly the Confederación Internacional del Trabajo (International Confederation of Labour). Besides the CNT (Spain), USI (Italy) and FAU (Germany), IWW (USA and Canada), ESE (Greece), FORA (Argentina) and IP (Poland) have affiliated to a basic set of statutes. Interest was shown by CNT-F (France), FOB (Brazil), Vrije Bond (Netherlands and Belgium), GG / BO (as observers) Germany) and the UVW (England).
The Congress, which began yesterday in Parma, Italy, is being held at the headquarters of USI and participants have said they view it as a continuity of the ideals of the International Working Men’s Association, the largest anarchist organisation ever formed in 1922. In a statement ahead of the gathering, organisers said:
Yesterday, as today, and even more so tomorrow, a combative libertarian, assembly and international trade union organisation is needed in order to defend workers effectively today and, at the same time, establish the pillars to build a new society in freedom and equality, without relation to the mechanisms of political and economic power.
Participants include unions which split away from the anarcho-syndicalist IWA in 2016 in a bitter dispute over the international’s future direction, such as CNT (Spain), FAU (Germany), USI (Italy) and FORA (Argentina) as well as independent groups such as ESE (Greece), IP (Poland), ARS (Bulgaria) and the IWW (USA, Europe).
A CNT* report on the first day of discussions noted:
Friday began in a relaxed manner with a tour of revolutionary points of interest of the city of Parma. By midmorning the accreditations of delegates and delegates had been collected. Subsequently, the collective “Cucine del Popolo” organised a social buffet offering lunch, snacks and drinks throughout the day.
The afternoon began with a greeting and official welcome to all attendees by USI. The first table was composed of members of IWW, USI and FAU, which gave presentations, starting with the GGBO of Germany, an organisation that fights for the labour rights of prisoners. Next was Cucine del Popolo, from Italy, an anarchist organisation that defends the principles of freedom, solidarity and internationalism and functions in an assembly and independent manner.
Presentations continued with the ARS (Bulgaria autonomous workers union) CNT France-Vignol (which has been intensely involved with struggles against Macron’s labour reform, Deliveroo and sections of Amazon), the newly-formed Popular Movement Rifeño and the Organization / Association of Workers of Brazil, which focuses on the precariousness of the education, oil and health sectors. Salutations continued with the WAS of Vienna, the IWW of the United Kingdom, the Argentine FORA and the Vraije Bond of the Netherlands and Belgium.
There is a dispute at present over the CNT name, with affiliates of both the new international and the IWA claiming it.Tags: italyAnarcho-Syndicalismcategory: International
While contemplating this TOTW I shared one of my favorite quotes about clear thinking in an online discussion:
"The process of sound philosophizing, to my mind, consists mainly in passing from those obvious, vague, ambiguous things, that we feel quite sure of, to something precise, clear, definite, which by reflection and analysis we find is involved in the vague thing that we started from, and is, so to speak, the real truth of which that vague thing is a sort of shadow." --Bertrand Russell
The general consensus of the conversation was a bit different than mine: "This quote sucks!"
Oh well, you can't please everyone! It is still my favorite quote. To me, clear thinking means getting specific about terminology (i.e., what the words you are using 'mean'), refining concepts and their relationships with other concepts until they are consistent with each other, and making explicit the logical and/or real-world implications that these terms and concepts have.
And I really think this point is important practically and not just philosophically. Clear thinking is a critical foundation not only of good theory-building but also of having productive communication with others. Meaning is slippery. It depends on context and that context is not always shared between two people. Things usually seem to make more sense than they actually do once you try to explain them carefully. Few things are more frustrating than going around in circles in a conversation with someone whose definitions are constantly changing.
I think some people take issue with Russell's statement when he references a "definite... real truth"--as if he is implying that a definite real truth exists and can be solidified into permanence through analysis. I don't think he believed this, but I also don't think that would be necessary for clear thinking. It is possible to treat words as having a specific meaning that remains constant from sentence to sentence without believing that we have now brought into being a permanent construct that represents the idea in question. Conversation depends on it. Without assuming some level of immutability to the meaning of words, conversations go in circles.
What are your (hopefully clear!) thoughts about clear thinking? Is clear thinking important? Is it possible? What are some ways that you try to make either your own thinking and/or writing clear, or that you try to make clear the ideas of others when you are talking with them or reading their work? If the kind of analysis described by Russell misses the mark, what are some other meaningful ways to refine ideas?Tags: totwphilosophycommunicationreification
By Rick Salutin, via
Article Continued Below
So is Toronto the natural anarchist capital of the world. It always seems so mild and unradical. But the greatest anarchist of all, Emma Goldman, the “most dangerous woman in the world,” spent loads of time here. Why did her anarchist heart feel at home? She even died here, on Vaughan Rd. — near Bathurst! Emma Goldman (photographed in 1932) was the greatest anarchist of all, the “most dangerous woman in the world,” who spent a lot of time in Toronto. ( Toronto Star File Photo )
So is Toronto the natural anarchist capital of the world. It always seems so mild and unradical. But the greatest anarchist of all, Emma Goldman, the “most dangerous woman in the world,” spent loads of time here. Why did her anarchist heart feel at home? She even died here, on Vaughan Rd. — near Bathurst!
Emma Goldman (photographed in 1932) was the greatest anarchist of all, the “most dangerous woman in the world,” who spent a lot of time in Toronto.
Toronto Star File Photo
So raise the black flag in Nathan Phillips Square comrades. No pasaran. They shall not pass — without looking both ways first.Tags: canadatorontoMSMcategory: Essays
Protesters march down Main Street on March 25, on their way to Locke Street where the “Patriot Walk on Locke” — a rally organized by reportedly right-wing groups — was taking place. Police did not let the group of protesters get to Locke Street in order to prevent any possible confrontation. - Scott Gardner , The Hamilton Spectator
by Trish Mills, via The Hamilton Spectator
Anarchism is beautiful.
The most similar thing I've seen recently published in media along those lines came from a pastor. Unfortunately he also condemned the destruction on Locke Street while forgetting to include that Jesus whipped bankers and threw a mini riot of his own back in the day.
But yes; anarchism and the way it plays out in my life is beautiful. It's not what media says it is; it's not all black masks, smashing windows and \"f\" the police. Of course it is some \"FTP\" because we do hate hierarchical, dominant and abusive systems of control — but also it's about supporting and building friendship and community. It's about love — for each other and for what this world could be instead of what it is now, and fighting for that better thing.
Anarchism is beautiful.
I saw it the other night when someone's dog got spooked and ran away. I saw it in the 20-plus people who immediately took the care and initiative to mobilize for that dog. We stayed out all night looking on foot, in car and by bicycle. Not because of a reward or because we all knew this dog or their person very well. Not even because we had the feeling that we'd succeed. We did it because we believe in care and collective action, having both the hope and a willingness to work and fight for the very best resolutions. We stand with each other in the hard times, trusting we too will be held when needed.
I saw how beautiful anarchism is when we organized legal support or our friend Cedar — arrested after police carrying assault rifles broke down their front door and threw concussion grenades. I saw how beautiful it was as we spontaneously gathered after that spectacularly unnecessary use of force, unintimidated and ready to reassemble demolished rooms and feed each other, for each other. I saw it when we picked feminist postcards out of the toilet that had been intentionally put there by police. Again as we filled the body of the court with 50 people to show our friend she's loved and would be taken care of. And again when we collected 57 letters from academics, community leaders and professionals who couldn't attend the hearing, encouraging justice of the peace Barbara Waugh to grant our friend bail.
Waugh denied Cedar bail regardless, stating in her decision that all anarchists belong in jail for even being anarchists. She then went on to talk about social media campaigns, dismissing the need for anything beyond them as a way to dismiss over a decade of Cedar's work in the community.
It's absurd that neutrality could be expected with her presiding, and ridiculous bail was denied to appease the public's blood lust over the broken windows of a doughnut shop and some Audis.
Indeed, the response to the Locke Street \"riot\" has been downright ugly. Shops have socially and monetarily capitalized on the event but continue to paint themselves as victims while retaining the power and behaviour of a perpetrator. They continue to push agendas that support displacement of the poor instead of being accountable for creating at least some of the anger and frustration behind such vandalism. They've even received the support of racist, misogynistic white nationalists during the \"patriot walk\" because the more support the better, right?
But if you're not denouncing white nationalists, you're supporting them.
If you haven't gotten there yet, I'll spell it out: I, in the fine words of The Tower, have no tears for Locke Street. I have no tears because I can understand, empathize and even support property destruction and violence used to escape or fight oppression and death. What I don't endorse is violence when it's used from a position of power as the police, courts and jails use it — which unfortunately happens to be the type most people celebrate, including our fine city councillors.
Breaking windows on Locke was just as much an act of defence as it was an attack. Just as much a symbol of love for people as an act against capitalism and gentrification. Anarchism is beautiful in its kindness and gentleness and care — and in its visceral hurt and rage and intensity. I say these things to balance the narratives being presented by police and media — not to feed or form a divide between smashing and building or good anarchism vs. bad anarchism. I think that's a false dichotomy we're often presented with as a means of undercutting each other. We need the tearing down of harmful institutions just as much as we need the building up of ourselves and community.
Anarchism is beautiful even when it's ugly because we're not fighting for ourselves; we're fighting for each other.
Trish Mills is a Hamilton residentTags: canadahamiltonlocke streetMSMcategory: Essays
From the local media we learn:
Yet another attack against a local administrator in Sardinia. Once again the target was Giovanni Canu, deputy major of Esporlatu and ex carabiniere.
During the night someone placed an explosive device in his property in the countryside. The strong deflagration caused part of the building to collapse.
Carabinieri of the Bono unit intervened on the spot, and are now investigating the incident and trying to identify the kind of explosive used.
In April last year Canu already suffered an attack: his car was burnt.
Translated by act for freedom now!Greecesardiniadirect actioncategory: Actions
By Tasos Kokkinidis, via The Greek Reporter
Members of Greece’s notorious anarchist group Rouvikonas (Rubicon) vandalized the offices of the British charity Oxfam in Athens as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are on a three-day visit to Greece.
According to reports, ten masked people smashed windows and damaged computers before leaving the NGO’s premises on Patission Avenue.
In a post on an anti-establishment website, the group said the vandalism was a response to recent claims the charity’s aid workers were involved in sexual assault against children and a subsequent cover-up of the scandal.
In April, members of Rouvikonas stormed the premises of the British Council in the central suburb of Kolonaki in Athens protesting against the war in Syria.
A member of the group was briefly arrested and charged following the attack.Tags: GreeceoxfamvandalismMSMcategory: Actions
"Abolition of wage labor & commodities"
This text was originally published by Antagonismo, a Mexican anarchist project, on May 6th, 2018. What follows is our translation.
This text was distributed on May 1st, 2018 in Mexico City, at the end of the usual union procession, celebrating Worker’s Day.
No, we don’t love work;
We hate it.
It is not our liberation,
It condemns us!
It does not raise up or free us of vices;
It beats us down
And morally annihilates us
To such a degree
That is leaves us incapacitated. (1)
Dispossessed of everything that would allow us to recognize ourselves as human beings, we continue to live in the time of being chained to boring and absurd jobs. What do we have? What is it that we possess? All kinds of debt: rent, cell phone bills, car payments and the costs of all the rags which show that we’re hip. What is really ours? A mocking and miserable future which awaits us at every second with only one real affirmation, the sole certainty our lives hold: to be owners of nothing but our labor power: our minds, arms, legs, vaginas, asses that we sell to the highest bidder, who will pay us whatever dollar amount, who will be the owner of our body & mind, our dreams and wishes.
Work is servitude, we are somebody else’s workers bought off for their stores, factories, offices, fields; we study so that we can serve them some day, so that even our intellectual studies in the best and worst schools also belong to them; selling in the street and being our own bosses is not synonymous with freedom; we sell what others produce, we are only our own capacities; all these ways of getting by only show that we are all part of production relations placed upon our shoulders throughout history; we are the product of past failures, we are a class of humans that only are united to serve, to produce and to consume.
We work to survive and to perpetuate the capitalist system; we work to get commodities that gives us a certain value which allows us to enter into a competition to better sell ourselves; our work is not our own; we are useless and easily replaceable; our need is no longer to be able to survive the inclemencies of nature, our needs have been extended to the way we survive; we are obliged to walk in the ream of the thing, in which we are but another commodity which is infinitely exchanged for other commodities; every day we create a new need to extend and create a new production line and to this end we lead our lives: we are strangers unto ourselves and those around us; our sole truth is to work, make money, to encourage the exchange of ourselves and things in this capitalist style; the final product is happiness, or at least what they tell us is is or should be.
Our free time is not ours, it is an extension of work on our shoulders; it is the time where we recover our strength, so that we may work return to work in a few hours or in a few days… no one escapes the organism which keeps the machine alive.
Everything is premeditated and calculated, ready for us; ready to initiate and ever-perpetuate the cycle of production; by way of ideology we are inculcated with respect for authority; they send us off to schools so that we may qualify to be workers in some branch – though the one we choose doesn’t matter, we are free choose who exploits us as we see fit!
They tell us that work dignifies us, they inject us with the discourse of honor found in producing something which others find useful; they encourage us to not remove a single gear in the social machinery which supports this necrophile system.
We have the right to work…to work so as to not die.
We have the right to create wealth by producing, pulling and extracting it from the Earth, but the great majority of us who work will have have no access to them… Have you ever thought about how ridiculous that you work making coats while your children only have a few rags to cover their misery? Have you felt hunger standing in front of exquisite delicacies? We’ve felt hunger, we’ve felt cold but we have settled for this downgrade, we have settled for the leftovers… the worst thing is that this absurd and maddening humility is not something we’ve thought up ourselves but rather thought up by the ideology which tells us to settle for rot while it reserves wealth for those who maintain this system; this system which engenders in itself the lie that keeps it alive and which we reproduce and if we don’t want to settle for having so little then fucking get to work! Work hard and you can be somebody, work hard and you will have what you want… that’s what they tell us.
This production system of wage labor, this form of relating to each other as commodities is capitalism and its structure has divided humanity into two antagonistic classes, both which work in some way to maintain this system; nonetheless, one which openly enjoys the benefits of defending it above all at the expense of the blood and pain or millions throughout the history of the mode of production; these two humanities are continuously at war, one side will never give up on their mission, the other has historically refused to assume role imposed by the other character, who will die of hunger if they don’t work, who make up the dead of wars for power, who want everything for everyone and which has no mothers for itself…
The bourgeoisie’s and capitalist monster’s game has been dealt and played, their movements on the board are played by pawns disguised and labeled as trade unionists, the religious, political parties, telecommunications buffoons who proclaim here and there their ideology of death; their mission is our voluntary acceptance and resignation to the reproduction of this reality.
To feel that it’s all pretty shitty is not difficult, neither is viewing this reality and wanting to throw up; no one else but ourselves can reveal what we feel facing this exploitation and the lack of satiation of our needs; it’s not complicated to recognize ourselves as interchangeable trinkets on the market; what is truly difficult is to cease assigning ourselves some value like vulgar objects, to cease to be a production relation, to cease to be a piece of meat selling ourselves; what is difficult is understanding that to work more and more only benefits Capital and not those we care for; what is difficult is to catch a glimpse of our capacity to create another way of living and fight for it…
Improving our condition as workers does not point to the real problem and neither is it a triumph, nor does it represent true well-being; to claim ourselves as workers or to have worker’s pride, to believe ourselves worthy before an imposed morality by being workers does not signify anything else but a garbage ideology; a heroic discourse by which they have kept us servile in their world.
“The more we work the less time we have to dedicate ourselves to intellectual or ideal activities; the less we can enjoy life, its beauty, the satisfaction which it can offer us; the less we enjoy of its joys, its pleasures, its love.”(2)
We are are the negated, the exploited, the betrayed…over and over again.
We are the part of humanity which daily struggles to survive, but we also wage war against Capital; we are not workers, we are exploited proletarians and we do not want to be such; we want another way to be, another way to live; we want to live and we struggle like grass against concrete, like the sea we want to transcend the rocky beach; we don’t want to manage the means of production — factories, schools, prisons, offices, restaurants, politics, the State, the police, preachers — we want to destroy it all — we don’t want to save anything from this world, we want to build another.
We do not want to celebrate, commemorate or offer odes to work, but rather we want to struggle everyday, every moment against it and against the totality which is capitalism; the best commemoration, the best evocation for those who have struggled against this system materializes in the action, in the extension and propagation of the anti-capitalist struggle; escaping from the myths, breaking with the supposed alternatives, clarifying the content of our struggles; we have no other certainty than the need for the effective destruction of the capitalist system; we want to create so as to satisfy our needs, we want to create so as to place things in common, the proletariat will wipe out this system when, far from all ideology and falsification, it struggles together to destroy itself as proletariat/commodity and to build itself as humanity.
A BETTER WORLD CAN EXIST IF WE ONLY STRUGGLE FOR IT
1 & 2.- Severino Di Giovanni, The Right to Laziness and Individual Expropriation…The complete text (in Spanish) can be read here.
The original flyer (in Spanish) can be read here.Tags: Mexicoworkcategory: Essays
Welcome to the anews podcast. This is episode 63 for May 11, 2018. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.
Editorial by NotNull: Any tool is a weapon if you use it right
TOTW: What are you listening to?
This podcast is the effort of many people. This episode was
* sound edited by linn o'mabel
* written by jackie
* narrated by chisel and a friend
* the music is 1) SOPHIE - Hard 2) Vermin Womb - Present Day 3) Childish Gambino - This Is America
*the editorial was written by notnull
* Thanks to Aragorn! and chisel for the topic of the week
* Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more
May 5th 2018, by Isbel Díaz [Fidelito foto above via stalkingtheearth]
No packed room, no audio or microphones, no promotion on social networks or email lists. Those who came were those who wanted and were able to, and it was enough.
More than 30 people where present this past 5th of May 2018 in Lawton, to help found between everyone the ABRA Social Center and Libertarian Library.
After almost three years of an International campaign to help obtain the necessary funds, without the help of governments, political parties, or NGOs or any part (much less to Cuban State institutions); we have achieved a dream started back in 2015.
Previous experiences in la Cátedra Haydeé Santamaría, la Red Observatorio Crítico, y Guardabosques have demonstrated the important need to have a fixed physical headquarters to help maintain our work over time.
Some of us here have been able to see places in Europe and America, collectives and groups on the left, syndicalists and trade unionists, anarchists, socialists, anti-globalalization activists, who have their own spaces. Some occupy, others rent, and there their creativity begins to take off, driven by their antagonistic energy to try and transform a world that is increasingly more and more xenophobic, racist, consumerist, unjust, and exploitative.
Our own struggles could be those, and others different; but it is clear that nothing can be a substitute for direct contact, the transparent gaze of people who want to work on something together. Especially in Cuba, where the State has a tight control of the media and the Internet is still very expensive and slow.
This was understood by the people who gave their support to our idea so that it could come out on top, and to each one who helped us out, my comrades and I send you our deep gratitude from the Taller Libertario Alfredo López and the Observatorio Crítico Cubano.
We know that you don’t have an excess of money. We know that many of you are workers or students, and that every coin hurts your pockets.
It is for this reason that we can only start this new period with great humility and the commitment that we make our social space open to each individual that knocks on our door with a dream, an idea of autonomy and collective work, and with that building a new direction for our lives.
This is why, in addition to sharing our own history with those who visited us this past weekend, we also gave them an opportunity to share their own projects and art.
With this, we took advantage of the opportunity for old friendly projects like the lucid-educational-communal “El Trencito”, the anti-racist bulletin “Desde la Ceiba”, or the “Kaweiro” group, that will be presented to new listeners in the voices of their coordinators Yadira Rubio, Tato Quiñones, Carlos Díaz and Meibol, respectively.
We enjoyed the art of verses that students from the University of La Habana gave us, and some other informal verses, as well as some written poetry.
We also learned about other artistic experiences such as those of our friend Ernesto, who in addition to humbling drawing up the murals that welcome visitors to the space, shared a new series of beautiful photography under the title of ABRA.
Promoters from the Centro Loyola informed us of a new space for debate called “Forum Loyola” from participants; we also learned of a visual art project “Tú yo más yo” by Jorge Mata, as well as “Fábrica de Improducibles” by the Laboratorio Escénico de Experimentación Social, presented by Yohayna Hernández.
All in all, from our first step we have tried to honor our name and “open” the door to others who arrive without a space to try something emancipatory and beautiful.
Tags: cubatranslationreviewsocial centerlibrarycategory: Projects
From Anarkismo by Wayne Price
Review of Markus Lundstrom, Anarchist Critique of Radical Democracy
Reviewing Lundstrom's "Anarchist Critique of Radical Democracy" leads to a discussion of what "radical democracy" could mean and whether anarchists should support it. Some anarchists oppose "democracy" of any sort because they regard "majority rule" as inherently oppressive and un-anarchist. This view is criticized and rejected in favor of a view of anarchism as democracy without a state.
While it is conventional to regard “democracy” as supremely good, there is a great deal of unclarity over what it actually means, in theory and in practice. This little book by Markus Lundstrom addresses that topic. it begins with a discussion of “radical democracy.” It ends with a review of “democracy” from the viewpoint of various anarchists. In between it applies radical democratic theory to a 2013 rebellion (“riot”) in a multi-national town in Sweden.
I will call the existing state form in the U.S. and Europe “bourgeois democracy.” (It is also called “representative democracy,” “liberal democracy,” “parliamentary democracy,” and so on.) It functions together with a capitalist, market-based, and completely undemocratic, economy. (The ideological rationalization of the capitalist economy is not a claim to “democracy” but to “freedom.”) Anarchists are in revolutionary opposition to capitalism and to all versions of its state, including bourgeois democracy. The question is what should be raised as an alternative.
“Radical democracy” is used by some reformists to mean “extending democracy” in bourgeois democracy. “Democratic socialists” (reformist state socialists) wish to create a more representative and democratic form of the existing semi-democratic state. And they wish to expand “democracy” economically by using this improved state. They suggest nationalizing some industries, regulating others better, promoting worker representation on corporate boards, promoting cooperatives, etc. Lundstrom quotes Chantal Mouffe advocating “a profound transformation, not a desertion, of existing institutions.” (80) Whatever the value of such reforms (and whatever the likelihood of achieving them), such a program does not break radically with bourgeois democracy.
Others use “radical democracy” to indicate a vision of an alternate society. This includes workplace councils in socialized industries, popular assemblies in neighborhoods, and self-managed voluntary associations. Everyone participates. Decisions are made through face-to-face direct democracy. Councils and assemblies are associated through networks and federations. It is claimed that modern technology has the potentiality to fit such a council system. In the opinion of myself and others, this conception of radical democracy is entirely consistent with the mainstream of anarchist tradition—and with a view of anarchism as being extreme democracy without a state.
However, Lundstrom bases his conception of radical democracy on his interpretation of Jacques Ranciere (2014). “Radical democratic theory typically acknowledges the contentious, conflictual nature of democracy….Democratic life, people’s political activity outside the state arena, is recurrently targeted by the democratic state: the police-accompanied decision-makers of municipalities or nation-states…. [This is] democratic conflict—the antagonism between governors and governed….” (Lundstrom 2018; 14) “Democratic life” is the striving of people to mobilize and organize themselves to satisfy their needs and desires—to live their lives as they want. But such self-activity clashes with the “democratic state.” Really a form of “oligarchic government,” this state uses representative democratic forms to co-opt and/or repress the population into passivity and acceptance of its rule.
Lunstrom’s and Raniere’s approach can be a useful way of looking at “democratic” conflicts. I would describe it as “democracy-from-below” versus “democracy-from-above.” It does not necessarily contradict the vision of councilist direct democracy. That could be postulated as a possible outcome if “democratic life” eventually wins out over the “democratic state.”
However, as an analysis it has a weakness. Although well aware of economic influences on the governing democratic state, neither Lundstrom nor Ranciere appear to accept a class analysis of the state. A version of a class analysis of the state was developed by Marx, but anarchists also have their version. Peter Kropotkin wrote, “The State is an institution which was developed for the very purpose of establishing monopolies in favor of the slave and serf owners, the landed proprietors,…the merchant guilds and the moneylenders,…the ‘noble men,’ and finally, in the nineteenth century, the industrial capitalists….The State organization [has] been the force to which the minorities resorted for establishing and organizing their power over the masses….” (2014; 187-9)
To be clear: a class theory of the state does not deny that, as an institution, the state, with its personnel, has its own interests. It does not deny that there are other pressures than those of the capitalists which influence state policies. It does not imply that the state simply takes direct orders from businesspeople. A class theory of the state says that, overall, the state serves the interests of the capitalist class and the capitalist system—essentially the drive to accumulate capital by exploiting the working class. The capitalist class needs the surplus value squeezed out of the workers. Without that extra amount of wealth, the capitalist class cannot survive, nor can its institutions, including the state.
The conflict is not only “between governors and governed,” in Lundstrom’s terms, but it is also between exploiters and exploited. Therefore it is not enough to attack society’s political decision-making methods. It is also necessary to end the wage system, the market, and private property in production. It is necessary to expropriate the capitalists and abolish capitalism, along with all supporting forms of oppression (racism, patriarchy, imperialism, etc.), as well as the state. To anarchists (unlike Marxists), the implication is that the state (neither the existing one nor a new one) cannot be used for such fundamental change. The implication is that a new society must be prefigured by a movement of the working class and all oppressed—a movement which is as radically democratic as possible.
Anarchist Views of Democracy
To repeat, all revolutionary anarchists oppose even the most representative and libertarian of bourgeois democratic states. It is true that there is a difference between bourgeois democracies and fascist or Stalinist totalitarianism. It is easier to live and be political in a representative capitalist democracy. Anarchists have fought against fascism and defended the limited legal rights afforded by democratic capitalism. But they continue to be revolutionary opponents of bourgeois democracy, aiming to replace it with socialist anarchism. That is not the issue.
Among anarchists, there has been a wide range of views about democracy, as Lundstrom recognizes. “The relation between democracy and anarchy is notably diverse and discontinuous….[There is a] variety of ideological strands that compose multifaceted understandings of democracy and anarchy.” (2018; 28-9) There is no one, orthodox, anarchist opinion of democracy. (I do not know how an “orthodox anarchism” would be defined, and doubt that I would fit the definition.)
Lundstrom divides anarchist history into “classical anarchism (1840—1939) and post-classical anarchism (1940—2017).” (2018; 29) The first period, he claims, developed “an anarchist critique of democracy,” which was mainly negative toward democracy, while the second worked out “an anarchist reclamation; notions of direct, participatory democracy became equivalent to, or perceived as a step toward, anarchy.” (27)
Whether this historical distinction is true (and I think that it is very rough), there have been, and are, many anarchists who have supported direct, participatory, democracy, and many others who have rejected even the most decentralized and assembly-based democracy. Of U.S. anarchists in the 20th-21st centuries, advocates of libertarian-socialist democracy include Paul Goodman, Murray Bookchin, David Graeber, Kevin Carson, Cindy Milstein, and Noam Chomsky, despite other differences. (Lundstrom briefly mentions me. See Price 2009; 2016; undated) Since Lundstrom does not really explain why some anarchists support radical democracy, I will present some reasons.
Collective decisions have to be made. If not by democratic procedures, then how? Collective decision-making by free and equal people is what democracy is.
Individualist anarchists sometimes write as if making group decisions was a choice. It is not. People live in groups, in a social matrix, and interact. Social anarchists believe that we are social individuals. Our language, our personalities, our interests, and so much more are created in the productive interaction with others and with non-human nature. Our technology—no matter how decentralized and reorganized it will become—requires cooperation, locally and on an international scale.
The individualist-egotist conception (developed by classical liberalism) portrayed people as atomic, ahistorical, asocial, selfish, essentially prior to interaction with others, and naturally opposed to society. Such individuals primarily pursue private matters in competition with everyone else. In this conception, common interests are few and fragile. This is an elaboration of the capitalist world-view, in which everything and everyone is reduced to exchangeable commodities. This includes people’s ability to work (labor-power) and their capital which can hire other people to work. While recognizing certain insights of the individualist anarchist school (such as its rejection of moralism), social anarchists reject this whole line of thought.
Michael Bakunin wrote, “Man [including women—WP] completely realizes his individual freedom as well as his personality only through the individuals who surround him, and thanks only to the labor and the collective power of society….To be free…means to be acknowledged and treated as such by all his fellowmen….I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise….” (Bakunin 1980; 236—7) Bakunin called this “the materialist conception of freedom.” (238) Bottici argues that Bakunin’s idea of freedom in not so much an aspect of individuals as a relation within a discursive community. “According to Bakunin, because human beings are so dependent on one another, you cannot be free in isolation, but only through the web of reciprocal interdependence.” (Bottici 2014; 184)
From the perspective of social transaction, to counterpose democracy and individual freedom is meaningless. Since collective decisions have to be made all the time, people’s participation in the decision-making is an essential part of their freedom.
Communes and collective townships must decide on whether to have roads, sewers, bridges, and other infrastructure, and where to put them. Shoemakers’ workshops must decide what footwear to produce, how much, and in what way. Book clubs must decide what they will read. These decisions must be made, one way or another. Dissenting individuals and small groups could decide to leave a particular town, workshop, or club. But other towns will also have to decide about infrastructure, other workshops will have to plan production, other clubs will have to decide their activities. Again I ask: if not by democratic procedures, then how?
However, there are many activities which should not be decided by the whole collectivity, that should be the concern only of individuals or small groups. It is not for the majority, nor a powerful orthodox minority, to tell people what religious views to have, what sexual practices to engage in, or what artistic tastes to cultivate. Anarchists agree with civil libertarians that neither majority nor minority rule applies to such activities. But even with this exception, there remains a great many areas of cooperative decision-making which must be carried out, one way or another.
Social anarchism does not aim at the complete lack of coordination, cooperation, group decision-making, and dispute-settling. What it aims at is the complete abolition of the state—along with capitalism and all other forms of oppression. What is the state? It is a bureaucratic-military socially alienated organization, composed of specialized armed forces, officials, politicians, and agents of the ruling class, who stand over and above the rest of society.
Radical democracy means that the state is replaced by the self-organization of the people. When everyone “governs,” there is no “government.” In the opinion of Brian Morris, “Such notions as…the ‘democratic state’ are thus, for Bakunin, contradictions in terms. If the term ‘democracy’ denoted government of the people, by the people, for the people, then this would imply no state, and Bakunin could therefore happily call himself a ‘democrat’.” (1993; 99) He quotes Bakunin, “Where all rule…there is no state.” (99)
Anarchist Opposition to Majority Rule
Yet many anarchists reject any concept of democracy, no matter how libertarian. (Actually such anarchists often advocate what others would call radical democracy, but call it by other names than “democracy”, such as “self-management,” “autogestion,” “self-organization,” etc.) Their major argument for rejecting even direct democracy is opposition to “majority rule.” This is rooted in an essentially individualist-egotist aspect of many people’s anarchism. Lundstrom writes, “The individualist strand of anarchist thought…comprises…an essential component in the anarchist critique of democracy: the opposition to majority rule.” (46) He cites Errico Malatesta and Emma Goldman.
The basic argument is that, while it is wrong for a minority to rule over the majority, it is also wrong for the majority to rule over a minority. Nor is there any reason to think that the majority is more likely to be right on any question than the minority. Often it is wrong. If no one has the right to rule over others, to dominate others—as anarchists believe—then it is as wrong for the majority as for the minority. Democracy through majority rule is nothing but the “tyranny of the majority.” “Anarchy” means “no rule”; by definition it is inconsistent with “democracy,” the “rule of the people (demos).” So it is argued.
As an aside, let me say that the problem with bourgeois democracy is not majority rule. Bourgeois democracy is a form of minority rule, the domination of a minority class of capitalists and their agents. The ruling minority fools the majority into supporting them. The boss class uses various mechanisms, such as distorted elections, domination of the media, and keeping the working class from hearing the views of anarchists and other radicals. If the majority has not heard the views of dissenting minorities before making up their minds, they are a fraudulent majority.
Some seek to avoid majority rule by using “consensus.” A community should always seek for as much agreement as possible. But often everyone cannot agree—there are majority and minority opinions on what to do. What then? If the minority is allowed to “block consensus,” to veto the majority’s desire, then this is minority rule. If the minority agrees to “stand aside” and not block consensus, then we are back at majority rule. A radical democratic collective may chose to use consensus, but it really does not resolve the issue.
The basic fallacy of opposition to majority rule is its treatment of the “majority” and the “minority” as fixed, stable, groupings. It is if they were talking about the African-American minority oppressed by a white majority under white supremacy. Instead, radical democracy is an encounter among people with varying opinions and interests. The resolution of conflict requires deliberation and persuasion. Reconciliation of differences is aimed for, but what is important is not a unanimous consensus but an on-going discourse, with no one left out. In direct democracy, “majority rule” is a technical way to make decisions, not overall rule by a majority.
Sometimes individuals are in the majority and sometimes in the minority. Those in a minority on one issue are not being oppressed. It is childish to imagine that people are coerced and oppressed if they do not always get the group decisions they want. Even in mostly private matters, a person cannot always get what she or he wants; that in itself does not mean that the individual is not free. The only adults who always get what they want, and who cannot be denied anything by others, are dictators—who are not models of free individuals.
The radical-liberal theorist of participatory democracy, John Dewey, wrote that democratic forms “involve a consultation and discussion which uncover social needs and troubles….Counting of heads compels prior recourse to methods of discussion, consultation, and persuasion….Majority rule, just as majority rule, is as foolish as its critics charge it with being. But it never is merely majority rule….’The means by which a majority comes to be a majority is the more important thing’: antecedent debates, modification of views to meet the opinions of minorities, the relative satisfaction given the latter by the fact that it has had a chance and that next time it may be successful in becoming a majority….It is true that all valuable…ideas begin with minorities, perhaps a minority of one. The important consideration is that opportunity be given that idea to spread and to become the possession of the multitude.” (Dewey 1954; 206—8) For Dewey, as for anarchists, this requires decentralized communities and workplaces: “In its deepest and richest sense, a community must always remain a matter of face-to-face intercourse ….Democracy must begin at home, and its home is the neighborly community.” (211 & 213; see Price 2014)
Lundstrom has a positive coverage of the opposition to democracy of many anarchists. “Anarchist thought also deliberately concedes to accusations of being anti-democratic.” This is rooted, he writes, in “an individualist critique of majority rule.” (81) He seems to agree with this view, at least in part.
He even adds some extraneous arguments. Basing himself on animal liberation theory (which he confuses with anarcho-primitivism), he claims that human oppression and abuse of non-human animals forecloses democracy. I do not see why this would be the case. Surely better relations between humans and the rest of nature is consistent with thorough-going human democracy. Similarly, he raises the issue of the Platform of Makhno and Arshinov, which called for the self-organization of revolutionary class-struggle socialist-anarchists. I am for this and he is against it, but I do not see its connection to whether there should be radical democracy for society.
But then Lundstrom expresses agreement with anarchists who hold to radical democracy. It is not entirely clear (to me, anyway) why he comes to hold this view. “By recognizing the pluralist and participatory dimensions of democracy…anarchism clearly aligns with open-ended explorations into radical democracy…Anarchist thought also produces an understanding of democracy as a step, however tiny, toward anarchy.” (81) This last phrase implies that some hold anarchy as an ideal of a totally free, uncoerced, society, which cannot be immediately (if ever) completely achieved. Therefore radical democracy is supported as moving in the direction of this ideal goal, whether or not it ever reaches it. In practice this view is essentially the same as that which holds that radical democracy is anarchy, but that it must continually increase its libertarian and self-governing aspects. The aim is to make it impossible for anyone to dominate and exploit the rest of society—a goal which Lundstrom calls “the impossible argument.” In any case, I am glad that we finally agree.
Lundstrom does not discuss how anarchism/direct democracy might be achieved. In his summary of the “Husby riots” in Sweden, he does not mention the conclusions participants drew as to future struggles, nor does he make any suggestions. He makes comments which seem to support a non-revolutionary, gradualist, and reformist approach (which would be consistent with individualist anarchism). In this view, held by many anarchists, such as David Graeber and Colin Ward, alternate institutions should be gradually constructed to replace capitalism and its state, with a minimum of actual confrontation with the ruling class. This ignores the ruling class’ powers of repression and co-optation.
In this view, there may never be a final achievement of anarchy—it is a never-ending effort. “Abolition of government is a permanent struggle, a continuous impeding of authority growing anew.” (75) He refers to the views of Gustav Landauer and Richard Day that “the state—and capitalism—[are] not primarily…structures but…sets of relations.” (74) That is, the state is not a structure to be overthrown but relationships to be gradually changed. As if social structures were anything but repeating patterns of social relationships! This view denies the existence of a minority with an interest in maintaining these oppressive “sets of relations,” a minority which must be confronted and replaced. He refers favorably to the anarcho-pacifism of Bart de Ligt and Leo Tolstoy, which implies that the police and military forces of the state do not have to be overcome. He misrepresents Errico Malatesta as a reformist, when actually Malatesta was a revolutionary who believed that “gradualism” would be appropriate only after a revolution, not before.
Over centuries, radically democratic forms have repeatedly emerged during popular revolutions. Murray Bookchin summarizes, “From the largely medieval peasant wars of the sixteenth-century Reformation to the modern uprisings of industrial workers and peasants, oppressed peoples have created their own popular forms of community association—potentially, the popular infrastructure of a new society—to replace the repressive states that ruled over them….During the course of the revolutions, these associations took the institutional form of local assemblies, much like town meetings, or representative councils of mandated recallable deputies [based in]…committee networks and assemblies….” (Bookchin 1996; 4-5)
Reviewing the rebellions of France (1968), Chile (1972-3), Portugal (1974-5), Iran (1979), and Poland (1980-1), Colin Barker concludes, “The democratic workplace strike committee has provided the basic element in every significant working class revolutionary movement of the 20th century….The development of factory committees and inter-enterprise councils conditions the parallel development of all manner of other popular bodies: tenants’ committees, street committees, student organizations, peasant unions, soldiers’ committees, and so on.” (2002; 228, 230)
While limited, Lundstrom’s short book provides a useful basis for beginning to discuss the relationship between anarchism, democracy, and radical democracy. But from my anarchist-socialist perspective, it is not enough for democracy to be radical; it must be revolutionary. In the course of uprisings, riots, rebellions, and revolutions working people, the oppressed and exploited, have created radical democratic structures—and will create them in the future. Only through mass struggle and rebellion can, in Bookchin’s terms, “the popular infrastructure of an new society” be created and solidified. This is, in practice, the revolutionary anarchist view of revolutionary democracy.
Bakunin, Michael (1980). Bakunin on anarchism. (ed.: S. Dolgoff). Montreal: Black Rose Books.
Barker, Colin (2002) (ed.). Revolutionary rehearsals. London/Chicago: Haymarket Books.
Bookchin, Murray (1996). The third revolution: Popular movements in the revolutionary era. Vol. 1. London/NY: Cassell.
Bottici, Chiara (2014). Imaginal politics; Images beyond imagination and the imaginary. NY: Columbia University Press.
Dewey, John (1954). The public and its problems. Athens: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press.
Kropotkin, Peter (2014). Direct struggle against capital; A Peter Kropotkin anthology. (ed.: Iain McKay). Edinbourgh/Oakland: AK Press.
Lundstrom, Markus (2018). Anarchist critique of radical democracy; The impossible argument. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan/Springer.
Morris, Brian (1993). Bakunin: The philosophy of freedom. Montreal/NY: Black Rose Books.
Price, Wayne (undated). “Radical Democracy—An Anarchist Perspective.” Submitted to Theory In Action.
Price, Wayne (2016). “Are Anarchism and Democracy Opposed? A Response to Crimethinc.” Anarkismo.
Price, Wayne (2014). “Anarchism and the Philosophy of Pragmatism.” The Utopian.
Price, Wayne (2009). “Anarchism as Extreme Democracy.” The Utopian.
Ranciere, Jacques (2014). Hatred of democracy. (trans. Steve Corcoran). London/Brooklyn: Verso.
*written for www.Anarkismo.netTags: wayne pricediscussiondemocracyAnarkismocategory: Essays
From Shakespeare for Dogs
Here’s a thing I made. It’s a zine about anarchism and spirituality. Also emotional growth. Also living a harmonious life. Also building Utopia. Y’know, all that fun stuff.White Flag, Black Flag: A Spiritual Anarchism Workbook
Right now there’s only an online version, printable version coming soon.
*** [from the Introduction via pdf copy/paste by ANEWS ed.]
1) What is this book about?
It’s a guide to moving towards enlightenment, from an anarchist perspective. It’s also a guide to moving towards anarchist utopia, from a spiritual perspective.
Through a spiritual lens, everything begins with consciousness. Through a political lens, everything begins with power. Power and consciousness aren’t different.
Power and consciousness begin with the self, and shape everything outside of it. This is a guide to navigating that space, through stepping into the feeling of being able to choose when to resist and accept.
This is about growth, discovery, deconstruction, empowerment, acceptance, love, and self-actualization. Each term is a different window into the same room. In the center of the room is a single duality: two energies, two options, which are themselves one. I’ve chosen to portray them as flags.
In everything from arguments to war, surrender is viewed as disempowering, weak and fearful. However, as anyone who has ever meditated can tell you, surrender can be entirely empowering, strong and brave. It is openness. Under the white flag are feelings of allowance, receptivity, permission, consent, release, trust, obedience, inaction, tolerance, compliance, and acceptance.
When you wave the white flag, you go with the flow. You embrace. On the river of life, it is the act of floating.
The black flag is our symbol of resistance.
Often in spiritual practice, resistance is viewed as immature, hostile or backward. However, as anyone who has ever been in a protest can tell you, resistance can be entirely wise, loving and progressive. It is movement. Under the black flag are feelings of effort, will, struggle, challenge, rebellion, insubordination, dissent, defiance, and change.
When you wave the black flag, you go against the grain. You push. On the river of life, it is the act of swimming.
There is no grey flag, because that would imply a middle ground that doesn’t exist. You cannot both resist and surrender to the same force in the same way. You can resist in some capacities and surrender in others, but in each case you are choosing either the white or black flag in turn.
Which brings us to our third flag: the yin-yang flag.
This is our symbol of balance.
It is not an energy unto itself. It is the quality that emerges from the balance of the white flag’s surrender and black flag’s resistance. It is union. Under it are feelings of harmony, collaboration, wholeness, solidarity, mutual aid, communion, and freedom.
You can’t wave the yin-yang flag; it simply emerges as a balance of its two halves. Under the yin-yang flag, you do not go in any particular way; you just go. You are and you act. On the river of life, it is simply the way you go.
2) Is this about spirituality or politics?
Both, sometimes at once and sometimes in turn. If we agree that the personal is political, and the spiritual is personal, then it follows that the spiritual is political and the political is spiritual.
From a spiritual perspective, this should be obvious, because everything is spiritual. From a radical political perspective, this should also be obvious, because everything is political.
I believe there are crucial lessons to be learned from both “sides,” and those lessons can apply to spirituality, politics, and personal and interpersonal life.
While I certainly cannot speak for all spiritual perspectives, I have seen many of them value the “white flag” far too highly while criticizing or demeaning the “black flag.” Likewise, I cannot speak for all political perspectives, but I have often seen the same phenomenon in reverse. Struggling against the current of the world is so often an ineffective and wasteful thing to do. Learning to surrender to reality is a profound remedy to the suffering caused by delusion, craving, and attachment. However, surrender is a profoundly stupid remedy to the suffering caused by rape, or mass incarceration, or genocide.
The point, to me, is to balance the two: to effectively navigate life using each energy in turn and in harmony. It is striking a balance between,
“I am accepting the things I cannot change,” and, “I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
3) How is this book to be used?
First of all, this book is now in your hands, and is yours to do with as you see fit. If the greatest use you can get out of it is taking a paper copy and burning it, go ahead.
Use it as best serves you.
My advice: Take this slow. Treat this as practice. Don’t rush through the book, and please reuse it again and again, as many times as you like.
Each chapter has a description of the topic and a question designed to help you apply it to your life. Try answering each question as honestly as you can (if you need more space to write, keep a notebook alongside this!) Try answering each question several times over the course of a month. See if anything changes.
The point is not to help you intellectually understand the feeling, but to offer a framework through which to look at your own life so that the feeling can arise.
If you get all the way through this and none of it emotionally resonated, I may not be the one to help you feel this right now. You may never have the feeling I describe. Or, you might finish this book, put it down feeling absolutely nothing, and have an experience five minutes later that causes it all to click.
I do believe that this is a feeling that every person can feel. I have no real proof for that statement, except that I keep seeing it happen.
4) Why should I listen to you?
There is no should. You can listen to me if you want to. If you find what I say serves you, I invite you to receive it. If you find what I say doesn’t, I invite you to ignore me.
I will ask two things of you only:
Take me at my word. I have chosen my words carefully. I am not seeking to imply anything beyond what I say.
Read this in goodfaith. You do not have to agree with what I say, but please understand that I genuinely believe in what I’m saying, and as much as anyone can, I know what I’m talking about. I ask you not to discount my words until you have considered them.
5) What was the point of this again?
The word I use to describe what’s at the heart of this book was a feeling. It is simply an awareness of a sensation.
I did not call it an idea. There are certainly ideas in this book, but the ideas are not the point. When did you truly understand love: when someone described it to you as a concept, or when you felt it?
I also did not call it a theory or hypothesis. I’m not making a claim to test and prove true, though there are theories and hypotheses within this book. They come at the end, in the form of advice. I also did not call it a truth. To be true, something must be falsifiable. How do you falsify a feeling? To call a feeling false or true is a category mistake. Feelings simply are or are not felt.
To reiterate, this is a description of the feeling:
Balancing resistance and acceptance through the choice of either/or, the awareness of choice, and the choice to choose.
Now, let us begin our study of the flags.
From June 11
Welcome to the 2018 June 11th International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason and all long-term anarchist prisoners interview series. With these interviews we seek to keep alive the recent histories of repression, resistance, and prisoner solidarity. To better know the prisoners we support, to grapple with some of the challenges of prisoner solidarity, to learn from and support each other across generations, struggles, borders, and ideologies. Last year we spoke with Sean Swain, Josh Harper, Daniel McGowen, supporters of Eric King, the Cleveland 4, and both Joseph Buddenburg and Nicole Kissane. Those can be found under the resources tab in the 2017 section at June11.org. They turned out so amazing and moving. They turned out so amazing and we really encourage everyone to check them out if they haven’t yet!
That brings us to 2018.
The theme for June 11th this year is how to maintain the long-term movements and commitments that are necessary for supporting our comrades both 7, 10 years and in turn be regenerating and nourishing to us in our struggles. We hope through y’alls engagement with June 11th events, writing, music, actions and these interviews, we can really dig into these questions.
So with all of our guests this year, we’ll be discussing those concepts that as well as their own stories, their passions, and their work. First we have with us Panagioti from Fight Toxic Prisons, or FTP as it’s often been affectionately referred to, which is “organizing resistance at the intersection of mass incarceration and the environment.” One of the main ways they do this is holding a major convergence every year right around June 11th. And those connections is really important because of the history of June 11th beginning with solidarity for eco prisoner Jeff Leurs in 2004, and then after Jeff’s release eco anarchists Marius Mason and Eric McDavid.
Eric of course was released in 2015, but Marius remains a primary focus for June 11th. The Fight Toxic Prisons convergence started in DC in 2016, moved to Texas in 2017, where Marius is currently held in federal prison, and is coming to Pittsburgh later this year.
June 11th: Did I get all that right? Can you tell us more about how FTP got started and why this focus on the intersection of prisons and the environment?
Panagioti: So the focus of looking at prisons and the environment – I think that looking at the organizing around June 11th is a big part of what led to this organizing and this idea of having an annual convergence and building a movement that looked at the intersections of incarceration and environmental impact. I think that some of the prisoners you listed in the introduction have seen these things first hand and I think that we’ve learned largely from prisoners that have come largely from the environmental movement and have seen first hand what’s happening on the inside, as well as social prisoners who’ve been in for decades and watched the development of mass incarceration build up in this country. For example, Eric McDavid was at FCI Victorville which is on a military base surrounded by superfund sites; Daniel McGowen was held at Marion, a federal prison that’s also a military base and also a notoriously contaminated site known as Crab Orchard; and Marius Mason at the moment is still at FMC Carswell, a military base that’s been contaminated for years. Also, Jeremy Hammond is on a prison site that was until last year a former coal mine in Eastern Kentucky.
So these are just some examples of prisoners who have also experienced and seen environmental contamination. We’ve heard from prisoners after starting up the mid-June convergence we’ve been hosting for three years now. We started hearing from other prisoners’ issues of water contamination, problems with black mold, sewage leaks inside the prisons, and that was a big inspiration for trying to build more momentum and not just have a one-off convergence or action on this issue.
June 11th: As I mentioned y’all went down to Texas last year and concluded that convergence with a noise demo at Carswell where Marius is. I assume most people listening to this know who Marius is, but if you want to talk about him and Carswell, which is a notoriously shitty facility and y’all’s choice to focus on that last year.
P: Yeah, so I think people who’ve known of Marius’ case or knew Marius personally from years of previous to his incarceration, I think it meant a lot to be geographically close and get to see the facility he’s locked up in and also hear from other prisoners that are in there currently or have been in there in the past. We were able to make connections with other political prisoners who were held in the administrative unit. Like the Aafia Siddiqui and members of her support committee who came out and spoke about the conditions and situations that led to her incarceration. We also highlighted some of the series of reports that have come out. FMC Carswell is a medical facility. The ACLU did a report called “hospital horror” about the long legacy of medical neglect and mistreatment that’s occurred there. So it was good, to highlight the prison and to be there to see for ourselves.
The noise demo that occurred afterwards I think exceeded most people’s expectations – especially for those of us who’ve been to a number of prison noise demos where it’s hard to tell if anyone can hear or to know if you’re being noticed out there. In this case they had prisoners walking back and forth across the yard, who were able to shout back and forth to each other. Those people are in the same notoriously bad, contaminated, abusive prison. and that message was spreading throughout the facility where our friend and comrade is locked up. I think that meant a lot to me and I know that meant a lot to those who weren’t there to see, including those from Marius’ support committee and from his family.
One of the other perks of having it at Carswell was that we were able to assist in visitation with Marius’ daughter and attorney who came to the convergence and spoke and also have that point of connection and to build over the long term the legacy of organizing with prisoners and their family members. So Arianna spoke on a panel with a niece of Leonard Peltier, and drawing the connections between these two cases, seemingly disparate cases, people whose incarceration was decades apart, but have this commonality of having family members on the outside that are left trying to hold things together and explain and support their loved one on the inside. These are a couple of things about the Carswell gathering (the Texas gathering and the demonstration at Carswell).
J11: Are there any updates on the Move Marius campaign or other campaigns against Carswell?
P: Well I think most people know that Marius was moved out of administrative segregation after seven years of a fight to have that happen. I think people also know that Marius has been involved in one of the most active and visible campaigns around supporting transgender people in female federal facilities – one of the first individuals to push the federal system to recognize them, although the actual manifestation of that is moving slowly in regards to legal name change and getting access to medicine and treatment (hormone therapy), but that’s an ongoing struggle and legal struggle and a struggle that deserves political support. That deserves pressure that’s moving at a slow pace.
The other updates that I’ve heard are that with Marius in general population he has access to a lot more of the minimal level of programs and activities that are available and he is staying busy and appreciative of ongoing support knowing that the years pass by and it gets more and more difficult to maintain that [support] with people that have different paths and priorities in their lives. So those of us who continue to do this kind of support work are always appreciated increasingly as the years go on.
J11: In other good news. I heard recently that after initially denying prisoners to organize a transgender support group at Carswell, they recently agree to let them do that and decided it wasn’t a threat to the facility. So another project that y’all have been working on for over three years is resistance to this proposed new federal prison USP Letcher in Letcher County, Kentucky. I understand there was recently some bad news around that – there was some indications that the government might be moving forward with trying to get this prison built. Can you tell us about USP Letcher, the environmental impacts it would have, the organizing that’s been done around it, and where things stand now?
P: Yeah there has been some significant news after the three and a half years of holding the prison at bay with the environmental impact statement and dragging it through that process of bureaucracy, what we call “paper wrenching” (filing comments and challenges to the environmental permitting).
We actually just got news two or three weeks ago that the Environmental Impact Statement was signed, with what they call a “Record of Decision,” so they’re able to move onto the next step which they’ve stated is acquisition of the land. Which doesn’t mean they’re going to break ground tomorrow, but they are intending on attempting to move forward. But it didn’t happen smoothly, and like I said it took over three years and in doing so I think they’ve lost a lot of faith even internally from their own power structure. About mid-last year the Department of Justice released a statement that it doesn’t actually even need this prison, based on its own assessments, demographics, and statistics – that it specifically thought to rescind the money, $440 million, to put back into the budget because it could not justify Bureau of Prisons’ own need for this prison. And so of course we have different reasons for opposing the prison, not what the BOP and Department of Justice say, but we do view that as a sign that there are internal fractures and cracks and there is not a uniform position around wanting to build this prison, and we think that’s a good ground to fight from.
So there are organizations who are gearing up for possible litigation, both from an angle of prisoners who were not properly informed and able to engage in a process as well as local impacted people in Letcher County who are opposed to the prison. So the resistance to the prison is moving forward, and we’ll be hearing more about that. The convergence in Pittsburgh was in part wanting to build motivation and movement in that part of that region of central northern Appalachia, where the ongoing opposition is going to need to come from. Letcher County is a small community and there is a very strong, vocal opposition to the prison but this is not just a local issue and I think the need to build regional and national moment is still very much present.
J11: Are there any other upcoming campaigns or actions around resistance to USP Letcher that we should keep an eye out for?
P: I would keep an eye out for more likely after the convergence, but this summer I think you’ll be seeing more. The Earth First! Rendezvous is happening the first week of July, in Southeast Ohio, so geographically that’s also one of the closer areas to this remote proposed prison and so there’ll be momentum building around that. Earth First! is of course one of the main networks in movements that inspired this organizing so we’ll be continuing to build that support there and we’ll see where things go if they actually do move forward with any sort of ground work. Although we don’t believe that’s going to happen quickly, we think it could – there could be some sort of forward progress and in that case we want to be prepared to escalate opposition if we see they’re actually starting to break ground in anyway this summer.
J11: So I’m sure that there’s so many ways that this manifests, but do you have other examples of the ways that prisons are both toxic to both the prisoners that are inside of them and the land and communities that they’re built upon?
P: Yeah, for sure! We’ve seen examples all over the country and we’ve been gathering documentation both in the form of public letters requests and letters from prisoners as well as news outlets (the media exposés) and so you know it’s a long list and it could be a really long conversation, but to highlight a few that are maybe more current and pressing:
We just in the last few weeks heard updates from prisoners in Massachusetts at MCI Norfolk where over a year of intensified pressure around contaminated water at the maximum security prison there led to a hunger strike by one of the most active prisoners in the facility. When he was attempting to organize an independent distribution of bottled water to other prisoners there he was retaliated against and sent to the hole. In response he went on hunger strike. They were able to resolve some of his demands within the week and so the hunger strike ended, but it did force the situation to be highlighted and the Boston Globe picked up the story and hundreds of thousands of people heard about this story which otherwise stays behind closed doors. Actually there’s a handful of similar situations where water quality impacts or quantity, in some cases have turned the water off in prisons because of problems with the water supply. Basically infrastructure problems with trying to maintain giant warehouses full of caged human beings, human being problems of water and sewage and I think that’s another good example to prisoners actually responding and getting attention. There was an uprising at a state prison as a result of punitive water turn-off because prisoners were active and there was some conflict within the prison. The prison guards attempted to turn off their water as punishment and in response an uprising broke out and people were able to get up onto the roof of the prison and take over unit for, I think this was a couple of days before it was suppressed.
In Pennsylvania and Texas there’s been these kind of parallel water contamination issues being challenged by jailhouse lawyers and some prisoners like Malik Washington at Eastham. It’s an administrative segregation unit. He was thrown in there after organizing at the other Texas prisons, especially surrounding the September 2016 uprisings nationally (the Attica anniversary) and so Malik Washington has been organizing publicly around the water quality at Eastham and several other units. I would check out what he’s been up to and also some of his writings. The Earth First! Journal recently published an article of his about the industrial slaughterhouse prison labor operations that’s got a lot of good insight on the overlapping intersections between animal liberation, the environment, and the prison system.
Also in Pennsylvania Bryant Arroyo has got around a year running of jailhouse lawyer challenges and that’s been inspiring to see. Bryant’s an active longstanding prisoner. Mumia Abu-Jamal called him a “jailhouse environmentalist,” and he’s kind of coined that term. Building off of jailhouse lawyer movement where he’s been organizing several prison facilities in Pennsylvania. He was another one of the big motivations to come to Pennsylvania with the convergence this year.
J11: So while y’all are working on these projects and having convergences all over the country, you’re also involved with some really remarkable local organizing with prisoners in the Florida Department of Corrections. I’m thinking primarily about the prison strike in the fall of 2016 that you mentioned, and Operation PUSH which started in January of this year. Can you start by telling us about what organizing in Florida looked like before, during, and after the prison strike?
P: Yeah! To be honest I didn’t have a lot of local involvement with prisoner organizing before the prisoner strikes in 2016. I’ve been in touch with other people, and I’ve worked at Prison Legal News for a time, and so I was following prisoner-related organizing in that position and specifically I was working on some issues with censorship in prisons. For example Prison Legal News has a blanket ban against any prisoners receiving the magazine. Earth First! Journal had been censored in several prisons and state institutions and also there was some other issues sort of arising out of extreme cases of abuse where there had been organizing. But to the involvement with mass prisoner communication was not something I had personally been involved in. So when we sent in a mailer from the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, letting people know about a solidarity demonstration we had planned, which was going to occur at Coleman, the federal prison in Florida, we didn’t expect such a massive response and we were also among other people in the country who were surprised when Florida was the first prison to go off on September 7th. The Holmes Correctional Institution, which is one of the panhandle prisons, was one of the first places and I think that one of the more remarkable and ambitious rebellions that happened surrounding the Attica anniversary.
And then after that, we counted at least nine other institutions that had some level of participation, four of which were classified by the DOC as “major disturbances.” Mostly prisoners refusing to go to chow or work assignments and then facing brutal repression as a result of that. We sent a letter out asking to get first hand experiences of what it looked like, and several of the letters pointed back to outreach that prisoners had gotten from mailings we had sent letting them know there’s a protest on the outside. Not even at a state facility but that it was in conjunction with a broader, national call to action, and it was kind of a good wake up for us that prison systems like this in Florida, notoriously brutal and repressive prison conditions, some of the worst in the country.
So the opportunity to hear the knowledge that people were paying attention on the outside was a huge piece of prisoners having the courage and confidence to stand up and participate in something like this. I think it surprised the DOC as well. We built on that. We published some of the letters the prisoners had sent and sent them back into the prisons to let people know what had happened on the inside. At least a glimpse of what other prisoners were experiencing, and it was very well received by prisoners. It was received with less enthusiasm from the administration. And they banned the publication. It was called Plantation Rising. We printed 5,000 of them and sent about a quarter of those into prisons, both in Florida and elsewhere, and the rest we sent all over the country. And used in Florida specifically to connect with people on the outside and build support for some of the prisoners who engaged in activity or faced retaliation for activities surrounding September 2016 uprisings. So after that, people I think learned about the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons and heard what we were up to and we developed a mailing list around that and Operation PUSH I think came in in that context. In between then there was also the August 19th organizing around Black August that had national participation and also in Florida was a pretty big deal. Most of the entire state of Florida’s prison system went on lockdown for that weekend in fear of what happened from September of the previous year.
J11: While there are issues with inside/outside communication all over the place during the strike, put on lockdown, prisoners were put in seg, and communication was cut off in any number of ways. It seemed to me there was more info getting out of FDOC than in a lot of other places. So what was y’all’s experience with that? Did you learn anything or develop any strategies that helped you keep in touch with people even during times of repression and retaliation?
P: I think really persistence is a huge piece of it. Continuing to write and to send, in our experience, large quantities of mail in because although we have developed individual relationships and we’ve built on those, we’ve found that any time mail could be censored or delayed indefinitely. So what we’ve found was that the more of it we sent in, the more response that we got. And so trying new facilities and reaching out has been successful. And it’s a mixed level of success you know? Like in January, now after two years of developing a reputation amongst prisoners and amongst administration we’ve found that the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, while we haven’t confirmed it on paperwork, it has been rumored to be listed as a “security threat group,” which is similar to the gang designations that a lot of other prisoner organizing ends up getting thrown into. It provides an easy way for the administration to censor and retaliate against prisoners. So we’ve been dealing with that, but we have found that consistently sending in mail, coordinating with other organizations to build mailing lists (prisoner books groups or even religious that have some level of concern for social justice and solidarity between inside/outside organizing). So you know, coordinating with those different groups who may have different perspectives or different priorities, but also view the value in maintaining connection.
And also following up. We did a lot of…probably “damage control” is the word. A lot of people experience retaliation just because of the mail they received from us. Some of those people didn’t request the mail, but we added them to the mailing list anyways, and we learned that it means a lot that if you find out that prisoners are thrown in solitary because of the mail that you sent that following up and putting pressure on the administration is important for them to know that people are out there and not forgetting about them or throwing them under the bus. And that’s a big responsibility and an ongoing lesson that we have to learn how to deal with.
J11: Yeah that’s a thing that was coming up for me while you were talking, is I like the idea of going for volume and reaching out to lots of prisoners, but I do worry about the effect it can have if somebody hasn’t agreed to be on a mailing list or what have you, to send them things about organizing on the outside or something coming from this group that is labeled as a “security threat” – the kind of risk that kind of puts them in. And so I feel like that’s a thing that lots of people are trying to do, is like how to balance those concerns and those interests?
P: Those [concerns] are true and I’d love to hear from other people about how they are dealing with it. Here, one of the things that developed out of the Operation PUSH prisoner strike, which was called by prisoners, and the intention was to be statewide. Largely it resulted in retaliation that effectively had a significant impact on the prison system, though a different impact than a strike, but we’re still kind of calculating the amount of pressure that was built and in some ways, calculating it by the repression. Like now we’re seeing this massive threat to visitation and really persistent shake downs for cell phone communication. People with cell phones, hundreds of cell phones have been confiscated in Florida prisons following the prisoner’s strike that was launched in January. And the visitation cuts that are proposed would cut visitation more than half than it currently is. It’s already only on the weekends, the cut would cut it to every other weekend, or limited to possibly only two hours per day. So that’s a major blow.
But it also is an indication that Florida Department of Corrections is really feeling a threat in the communication between people on the outside, and people on the inside. And I think the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons is really one small piece of that. A lot of the organizing that’s been really effective is among prisoners and their own family members who have engaged in challenging the prison system through the grievance process. That tends to usually be a failure, but it’s a starting point and there’ve been some pretty massive complaints and lawsuits by prisoners and their family members that have been successful in the state so I think that’s also what they’re looking to reduce or minimize is the communication, so it that has that effect.
J11: You’ve been talking about Operation PUSH, which is a prisoner-led, statewide strike initiative with the logic of “slow and steady processes of economic impact through non-participation.” While a lot of framing was about prison slavery, prisoners are also demanding an end to price gouging and the full reinstatement of parole. Operation PUSH ended up having participation in 17 correctional facilities I believe, outside solidarity demonstrations across the state, and over 150 organizations signing on for support. FTP as well as Gainesville IWOC seem to be two really important groups drawing attention to that operation and supporting those inside. Can you tell us more about Operation PUSH and what y’all learned from that initiative? You already spoke to some of the outcomes, is there any ongoing resistance or retaliation?
P: We’ve been tracking prisoners that have been sent to solitary or relocated to other facilities as a result of the Operation PUSH call, and the dozens that we’ve direct correspondence with, but we think in the hundreds, maybe thousands, of prisoners who were relocated either as a result either in anticipation or in response to things that had happened over the last two months. There’s been several disturbances that we’re still waiting for public records requests responses on to try and find out the actual extent of them. The Columbia CI Annex there was a claim of a disturbance of some sort. It was the one month anniversary of Operation PUSH kicking off, but we don’t know the exact details aside from the claim that several prison guards were sent to the hospital. They claimed also that no prisoners were injured, which is, as most people who’ve ever paid attention to prisons, we know is almost definitely a lie. And so we’re still trying to find out what lead to and what followed that uprising in Columbia CI on February 15th. And on March 7th at Gulf CI, there was another disturbance listed by the Department of Corrections, and mostly they just announce these things as excuses to cancel visitation or put facilities on lockdown, and they’re forced to disclose that publicly because it effects their schedule of visitation. So these are things that we are battling back and forth over whether they’re going to release the records. Well, they have videos and photos that show the incident, what occurred and how it occurred, so these are just some examples.
Those are prisons where we have heard of activity and momentum building and we don’t know what the actual impact of these events in the last two months were, but we think we’ll find out – it could be months to have the public records request actually honored. It could be a lawsuit that forces it. So we don’t know the outcome of that yet but we have been tracking things like that. We’ve also been providing mailing lists of prisoners that, while we don’t yet know their involvement and we’ve been maintaining and supporting anonymity of prisoners, we have lists of Florida prisoners who have expressed that they want to receive mail, and so we shared those lists with other activist organizations and letter writing efforts and we’ve distributed those to groups all over the country to generate letters of support, to generalize support for prisoners facing retaliation, as a result of Operation PUSH. That’s one of the other things that we’ve been doing in the aftermath.
J11: Another issue that had come up in Florida recently, as you mentioned, is this attempt to severely restrict in person and contact visits, and replace them with video visits, often via tablet. Many facilities are introducing tablets, which sounds to some like a luxury, but really serves to further monetize, isolate, and very strictly route so many operations of the prisons into this little device. For example I’ve heard of some places no longer have physical law libraries, but just an app that you log into on a tablet. And most things you have to pay for on the tablet by the minute. It’s not accessible or luxurious. And one thing we’ve been thinking about around June 11th and long-term prisoner support is the necessity of real human relationships between people on the outside, and comrades on the inside. While not always possible, in person visits, just getting to hug each other, is such an important part of building that connection. What’s the situation with visitation in FDOC right now and what do you think about the importance of building those relationships both inside and out?
P: Well it’s been a major focus of most prisoner-related activities around the state in the last two months and as an organization that’s focused largely on environmental health, we view human contact as a basic human right, but also as an environmental justice issue and humans are also species and that connection with our families and communities is a fundamental part of life, of our biology, and we want to bring that front and center. And because you guys, especially with the June 11th framing and looking at the history of June 11th being connected to a lot of environmental anarchists organizing and biocentric perspectives, we think prisons represent in many ways the worst of what industrial society has to offer and basic connections to community and in person visitation, I think really highlight that. And I think it’s important that people who have a deep critique of this society look at this and build with other people who were seeing this, in some ways unveiling how ugly and how deep this system impacts the earth and the people and animals that live on it.
And I guess some examples of that, around organizing against visitation cuts, we’ve been communicating largely with wives or partners or family members of these prisoners and who are very much, from an emotional gut level, talking about the impact of seeing someone you care about on a screen and the reality of a child who grows up touching a screen, attempting to connect with their parent and I just really think it speaks to how deep and how disgusting things have gotten in society. And I think one of the most damning examples of the introduction of these types of technology into prisons is that they’re actual giving them away, which you should be suspicious of at any point, when these companies that are so profit-based start giving things away is because they know that people would rather have human contact, rather have visits, people don’t want to be paying all this money, but almost like pushing a drug they’re being handed out. The FDOC’s kiosks are being put in by JPay for free, and then you know obviously they’ll get the return on people being forced to use them to maintain any level of contact. But we know that contact will be tightly controlled, more easily monitored, and in the end that could result in in-person visitations being cut all together. And we’ve seen that in a lot of county jails. It’s been kind of the canary in the coal mine, in the sense that it’s happened in tiny jails all over the country where human contact visits are eliminated shortly after they implemented the video visitation. So you know, we have to prepare for that.
J11: I’d like to get your thoughts on this theme of long-term movements for long-term prisoners. How do we build a sustainable movement so that we and others can continue to be there for friends in prison in the coming years and decades? How do we have more regenerative instead of exhausting and depleting organizing, and what can we learn from our movement’s long-term prisoners and the rich history of support for them?
P: Well I think the answer to that is seeking out ways where support work isn’t always on the defensive – that we’re building offensive attacks, not just through direct action, but also through support networks and organizing that actually poses a threat. And that’s something that we’ve really learned from these experiences organizing in Florida – we know the Florida Department of Corrections views us as a threat because they’ve been telling prisoners that in their repression and while that’s frustrating and we think it’s wrong that we be listed as a Security Threat Group in order to repress or retaliate against people, we think it’s also a complement that they view us as a threat because, you know, they should! And being a threat to an institution doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have the ability to communicate, that some of these things are supposed to be built-in rights, that we have to use the documentation of this colonial and imperialist power structure, but we do have those rights and defending them, you know like launching free speech amendment battles around our communication with prisoners I think is really important and continuing organizing.
I guess I’ll give another example. In Florida we’re challenging phosphate mine and it’s a big deal locally. People all over North Florida are opposed to this phosphate mine, and we’re figuring out ways to coordinate with prisoners who are actually geographically the closest to the mine – a quarter mile from this 10,000 acre phosphate mine would be the Lake Butler Medical Reception Center. So we’re organizing with prisoners to challenge this phosphate mine and in doing that, I think connecting environmental activists from the whole range of organizations like often people thought of as the lefty, liberal, or like moderates, then seeing that prisoners also have a role in the stake of participation and efforts like movements on a local level and I think that’s been really helpful at deepening that bond and that connection and that respect for prisoners as people.
J11: In addition to Marius you list Walter Bond, Michael Foster, Red Fawn, Little Feather, and other long-term indigenous prisoners Oso Blanco and Leonard Peltier and the MOVE prisoners on your site. Are there any particular cases you’d like to draw attention to or any shoutouts?
P: Well I think for sure people should be paying close attention to what’s coming out of the Standing Rock cases and I think that there’s so much momentum and enthusiasm that it burned really hot and really fast in a lot of ways and it’s important to not forget that for years after those moments, there is a need to support people who face the worst retaliation and so that’s high priority. It’s something we want to highlight at the convergence this year. We’ll have speakers from the family members of support committees for some of the Standing Rock NO DAPL resisters who were locked up.
J11: Lastly, the Fight Toxic Prisons convergence that you were just talking about is in Pittsburgh from June 8th-11th this year, and there’s this call for Juneteenth of 2018. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s being planned for those dates?
P: Well the convergence, and if you check out the documents that came out the last two, there’s a pretty rich collection of photos, and videos, and audio recordings to give a glimpse of what they’ve been like, but I think showing up and seeing for yourself is the best way to see what’s happening at them. We expect this year again that there will be a lot of voices coming from former prisoners or the family members of prisoners as well as call-ins of people who’re still locked up, and we’ve usually ended them on a high note of physical presence and disruption of either offices of prisons or places that we think represent what we’re talking about (this intersection between prisons and ecology) and so there will definitely be ample targets in Western Pennsylvania around those issues, so we plan to link up with organizations based in the Pittsburgh area and coordinate an action together on Monday. So if you’re coming, plan to stick around til Monday!
And then a week later, Juneteenth kicks off. And there’s been a call, primarily from Texas prisoners spreading nationally around recognizing Juneteenth recognizing the abolitionist holiday, connecting it to the struggles against prison slavery. So I think that’s just starting to develop. There’s a call to action that’s circulating nationally to get groups on board to plan community events and demonstrations in their own local areas.
J11: Any final thoughts?
P: I think that’s it! I hope to see some of y’all at the convergence in Pennsylvania and of course continuing to honor and build the tradition around June 11th as a day of solidarity and support for anarchist prisoners. Thanks a lot for having me on here.
J11: Yeah, thanks so much! You can find more information about many of the things we’ve talked about as well as a bunch of other stuff at FightToxicPrisons.wordpress.com
Thanks so much for listening! You can find this, all the other interviews, the 2018 call out, so many zines, posters and other support materials at June11.org
If you’ve got friends on the inside, send them the call out! Getting statements and responses from prisoners all around the world is always one of the most inspiring and invigorating parts of June 11th.
You can find a list of events planned for this year on our website or on our column at ItsGoingDown.org. Send us an email to June11th [at] riseup [dot] net with events in your town. We hope to see dozens and dozens of events, actions, music projects, or whatever else you’re inspired to do this year.Tags: anarchists in troublelong term prisoner supportjune 11june 11thInterviewcategory: Prisoners